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Beware of Scams When Donating to Storm Victims

Posted on: 3:01 pm, August 31, 2012, by

BBB

(Memphis) The Better Business Bureau has a warning for anyone wanting to donate to victims of Hurricane Isaac. Fake charities may be trying to pull off a scam.

The same thing happened following the tsunami in 2004, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Haiti earthquake in 2010.

The BBB offers the following tips to help Americans decide where to direct their donations:

Rely on expert opinion when it comes to evaluating a charity:
While internet bloggers or other Web sites may give recommendations of groups or organizations to donate to, they might not have fully researched those organizations. You can research national charities and relief organizations at http://www.bbb.org/charity to find out if they are accredited by the BBB Wise Giving Alliance and meet the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.

Be cautious when giving online:
In response to hurricanes Katrina and, Rita, and the Asian tsunamis, the FBI and others raised concerns about websites and new organizations that were created overnight, allegedly to help victims. Be wary of unsolicited text messages, emails or social media posts that claim to link to a relief organization. The safest bet is to go directly to the organization’s website.

Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the disaster impact areas:
Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to bring in new aid workers to provide prompt assistance. Look at the charity’s website to see if they clearly describe what they can do to address immediate needs.

Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups:
Some charities raise money to pass along to other relief organizations. If so, consider eliminating the middleman by giving directly to the organization that has a presence in the region. Your donation may reach the victims more quickly this way. At the very least, check out the ultimate recipients of these donations to make sure the organizations are equipped to effectively provide aid.

Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims:
Despite what an organization might claim, charities have fund raising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee. If a charity claims that 100 percent of collected funds will be assisting earthquake victims, the truth is that the organization is still probably incurring fund raising and administrative expenses. They may use some of their other funds to pay these costs, but the expenses will still be incurred.

Think carefully about gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations:
In-kind drives for food and clothing—while well intentioned— may not necessarily be the quickest way to help those in need – unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to be able to properly distribute such aid. Ask the charity about their transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance.

Look for details when texting a donation:
Beginning with the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, it’s become common to donate via text message. Make sure you understand the amount to be donated, and whether there will be any service fees charged to your account. Be sure the offer clearly identifies which charity will receive the donation and donate this way only to known and reputable charities.