The BBB Wise Giving Alliance, the national charity monitoring arm of the BBB, and BBB Serving Eastern Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont, cautioned donors about potential red flags concerning tragedy-related philanthropy.
"Tragedies inspire people to give," H. Art Taylor, president and chief executive officer of the Alliance, said in a prepared statement. "But, tragedies — whether natural disasters or manmade catastrophes — also inspire scammers to take advantage of that generosity. Social media, in particular, makes it very easy to reach a lot of people quickly, when emotions are running high and people feel the need to take action, any action, to help."
The BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers 10 Tips for Giving with Confidence:
1. Take the time to check out the charity to avoid donating to a questionable or poorly managed effort.
2. Remind your friends and family to be cautious about giving requests in the wake of such a tragedy. People are emotionally moved by events like these and may react before they have time to carefully consider.
3. Most states require charities to register with a state government agency before they solicit for charitable gifts. If the charity is not registered, it may be a red flag.
4. Organizations raising funds should get permission from the families to use the names of the victims and/or any photographs.
5. Watch out for vague appeals that don't identify the intended use of funds. How will the donations help victims' families and when will the funds be used?
6. Some families may set up their own assistance funds, which may not be set up as charities. Also, make sure that collected monies are received and administered by a third party to help provide oversight and ensure the funds are used appropriately.
7. Never click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites or in texts or emails. These may take you to a look alike website where you will be asked to provide personal financial information or to click on something that downloads harmful malware into your computer.
8. After funds are raised for a tragedy, it is even more important for organizations to provide an accounting of how funds were spent.
9. An established charity will more than likely have the experience to quickly address the circumstances and have a track record that can be evaluated. A newly formed organization may be well-meaning but will be difficult to check out and may not be well managed.
10. Not all organizations collecting funds to assist this tragedy are tax exempt as charities. Donors can support these other entities but keep this in mind if they want to take a deduction for federal income tax purposes. Contributions that are donor-restricted to help a specific individual/family are not deductible.