Internet scam touches charity for Latvian kids

A U.S.-based charity that focuses on helping abused children in Latvia has fallen victim to an Internet scam that went as far as to clone much of the design and content of the charity’s Web site.

Jay Sorensen, president of the Kids First Fund in Milwaukee, Wis., said he first became aware of the scam on July 26, when someone in Great Britain forwarded an e-mail to him. Now he worries what damage the scam may have caused to his fundraising efforts and to the reputations of KFF’s board of directors, which includes such well-known individuals as hockey player Artūrs Irbe and Irma Kalniņa, director of the NGO Centre in Rīga.

The e-mail claimed to come from a woman in Latvia affiliated with an organization called the Hope Children’s Home. The writer, someone supposedly named Liza Nikauskas, gave a testimonial for a supposedly London-based group called the European Charity Union and listed the group’s Web site as

When Sorensen visited the group’s Web site, he said he was surprised to see that most of the content and design was the same as that of the Kids First Fund. Even a description of his family, part of Sorensen’s “message from the president,” was there, except that the president now was named Jason Soren.

“These culprits have associated the narrowly defined mission of KFF with their illicit activities,” Sorensen said in an e-mail to Latvians Online. “They have probably sent out millions of spam messages to potential donors throughout the world—to solicit funds and to seek representatives to conduct their fraudulent fundraising.”

Rather than seeking funds through online donations, as Kids First Fund does, the European Charity Union advertised for country coordinators to solicit donations, offering commissions of 5 percent to 7 percent of whatever they brought in.

The group registered at least three different Web addresses,, .com and .net. All three have been removed after Sorensen complained to the Internet service providers hosting the addresses.

Along the way, Sorensen got a lesson in how the Internet works and how easy it is to set up Web sites with false information.

As Sorensen began to track the owners of the European Charity Union sites, he found they provided false details about who they were and where they were located. The Web site, for example, supposedly belonged to a registered sex offender in Florida, whose name and address is publicly available information.

On its Web site, the European Charity Union listed a contact address in London that is the same as that of a long-standing organization called the Family Welfare Association. But when contacted by Latvians Online, a spokesperson for the association was surprised to learn of the European Charity Union.

Helen Dent, the chief executive of the Family Welfare Association, said through the spokesperson that the FWA was founded in 1869 and has never been associated with the European Charity Union or any organization sounding like it.

The European Charity Union also is not registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales.

“I intend to aggressively pursue any cloning and to shut down the offending sites,” Sorensen told Latvians Online. “I also hope news of this will cause those who regulate the domain registration process to tighten up the rules. It’s far too loose and that is the cause of most of the problems.”

He said he has contacted the FBI in Milwaukee about the scam. A spokesperson for the FBI was not available for comment before this article was published.

The Kids First Fund, found on the Web at, is a registered non-profit organization. It describes its mission as “supporting the needs of kids that are sexually and physically abused, abandoned or neglected.” Most of its efforts are focused on rural Latvia. Last year, according to its tax filing, the fund took in more than USD 60,000 in donations.

Internet scam

The now-defunct Web site for the European Charity Union (in foreground) offered a list of its supposed board of directors that was the same as that for the Wisconsin-based Kids First Fund. Even the look of the Web site was similar to that of the Kids First Fund.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

One thought on “Internet scam touches charity for Latvian kids

  1. Could “privileged” children be receiving money rather than allowing it to go where is was intended?

    A website ( was back in operation later today, with opening letters by authors mostly targeting people at a movie going age.

    Previous topics ranged from political intelligence (which threw me out of the login on the two only attempts to submit a comment) to “Anger sink”, religion and the “health risks of smoking”.

    Some participants migrated from each closed topic to the next, like I did, but I was disappointed at the lack of synthesis or a conclusion to review any of them before they were abruptly terminated. Shouldn’t forums be allowed to remain viewable as a snapshot for a day, allowing users to analyse their own impact?

    Missionary work in general is a hot potato with education being left in the cold. It is harder to misappropriate education because it spreads. American cash, even within Latvia, tends to be less accounted for.

    I hope we are alert.
    I am beginning to suspect that each member’s page at that website may not have offered up the same topics of discussion keeping people within the circle of friends rather excluded from each other on rather heated issues.

    The extent of editorializing or monitoring at the sysop or administration level may actually be part of a much larger problem like it was with adbots and virii Following Vaira’s Vike Freibergas treatise on genocide on 2004-Jan-26 which was not accessible the day “Latvians online” arrived with the link at my computer.

    I noted the rather serious looking faces of the people at Latvian Christian Radio, celebrating their annivarsary before a gold plated opera hall stage. They should not, however, become the targets for issues that are blocking science still in some states. It was during brutal occupation that science had to excell in USSR. Now there is all but one chemistry book at the RTU science library stacks in the top floor of the Kipsala Campus. The rest is off-limits.

    Science might not be for everybody, but there must be some kind of guidelines for accessibility? I am studying alongside youth, young enough to be my children and it’s hard to keep a low profile with such flagrant omissions in a science libary!

    Maybe people are now looking, perhaps many are rushing off and doing some science and checking some facts. That’s the optimistic view.

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