This is a consumer advice column written by the Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana. It appears Thursdays in Business.
Because of the devastating tornadoes that ripped through Oklahoma this week, and in Texas last week, Better Business Bureau and BBB Wise Giving Alliance have issued tips to help donors make smart decisions and avoid scams.
“After every natural disaster and manmade catastrophe, we see an outpouring of generosity, along with the inevitable scams and frauds,” said Art Taylor, president and CEO of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. “We urge donors to take the time to make sure their donations are going to legitimate charities that can do the most good for those in need.”
“BBB Oklahoma City is so grateful for the immediate response from people all across the country,” said Kitt Letcher, the new president and CEO of BBB of Central Oklahoma, who started in the position just Monday. “We will be keeping a close eye on the situation in order to prevent, as much as possible, scams related to charity relief, as well as restoration and rebuilding services.”
BBB Wise Giving Alliance is offering tips to help donors decide where to direct donations to assist victims:
•Be cautious when giving online. Especially we wary of unsolicited spam messages and emails and social media posts that claim to link to a relief organization. If you want to give to a charity involved in relief efforts, go directly to the charity’s website.
•Rely on expert opinion when it comes to evaluating a charity. Be cautious when relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers or other websites, as they may not have fully researched the relief organizations they list. The public can go to www.bbb.org/ charity to research charities and relief organizations and verify that they are accredited by the BBB and meet the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.
•Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims. Despite what an organization might claim, charities have fundraising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee.
•Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas. Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to bring in aid workers to provide assistance. See if the charity’s website clearly describes what the charity can do to address immediate needs.
•Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups. Some charities may be raising money to pass along to relief organizations. Check out the ultimate recipients of these donations to see whether they are equipped to provide aid effectively.
•Gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations, while well-intentioned, may not necessarily be the quickest way to help those in need – unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to distribute such aid properly. Ask the charity about its transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance.