As West Coasters watched Hurricane Sandy pummel the East Coast from afar, many wondered what they could do to help. Unfortunately, in the wake of charitable urges come scammers.
The Golden Gate Better Business Bureau is warning people who want to contribute funds to Hurricane Sandy victims to be on the alert for charity scams.
Here are the organization’s tips for how to avoid being conned:
1. Give money to charities that specialize in disaster relief. Right after a natural disaster, cash – not clothing, food or other items – is the best way to assist charities that already are on the ground in affected areas.
2. Before you donate, find out if the charity is actually on the ground in the affected areas or if it is fundraising on behalf of charities that are.
3. Double-check to make sure you are donating to the right charity. The Better Business Bureau sees many scam artists appear, especially online, after disasters that use names that sound similar to those of well-known and established organizations.
4. After disasters, many will receive emails asking for donations. Some are legitimate, and some are not. Many scam artists will create phony donation pages that mimic the pages of legitimate charities. Be careful: Not only will your donation go to waste, but you also run the risk of becoming the victim of identity theft. When in doubt, you should call the charity directly and verify the email came from it.
5. 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. If a charity claims that 100 percent of collected funds will be assisting hurricane victims, the truth is that the organization probably is still incurring fundraising and administrative expenses. It might use some of its other funds to pay these costs, but the expenses still will be incurred.
6. High-pressure tactics are the hallmark of every scam artist. This tactic is usually used over the phone or door to door. While disaster victims may need your donation quickly, a good charity will make sure to answer all of your questions and educate you on how it provides relief. A scam artist won’t be able to do that. Ask questions, and if something doesn’t feel right, don’t donate.
7. Rely on the experts like the Better Business Bureau to research charities before you donate to them. At bbb.org, you can find detailed evaluations of local and national charities.
The American Red Cross is asking people to donate both blood and money to assist victims of the storm. The Salvation Army is also soliciting donations to aid in its relief efforts for storm victims, which include hygiene kits, shower units, and first aid supplies.