CHICAGO (AP) -- The Better Business Bureau is warning Illinoisans to be wary of scam artists pretending to be charities collecting money to help people affected by Tropical Storm Isaac.
Steve Bernas is CEO of the Better Business Bureau operation in northern Illinois. He says people who want to help out the victims of natural disasters such as Isaac should make sure to fully check out those soliciting donations.
The bureau says people should avoid responding to pitches that come by email. If someone wants to give online they should use a charity’s website. And the bureau says people should be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will go to victims since all charities have expenses.
Below are some tips from the BBB to help resident decide where to direct their donations:
- Rely on respected experts to evaluate a charity. Be cautious when relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers, because they may not have fully researched the listed relief organizations. The BBB provides a Wise Giving Guide to charities at www.bbb.org/charity. The guide shows which charities are accredited by the BBB and whether they meet the BBB’s 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.
- Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations assist victims. All charities have fund-raising and administrative costs. Even a credit card or text donation will involve at least, a processing fee.
- Be cautious when giving online to unfamiliar charities. Be wary of spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. After the tsunami disaster in 2004, the earthquake in Haiti last year and the earthquake and tsunami in Japan this year, many websites and organizations created overnight allegedly to help victims turned out to be scams.
- Find out if the charity has a presence in the affected areas. Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to get new aid workers into the area to provide assistance. See if the charity’s website clearly describes what it can do to address immediate needs.
- Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups. You may want to avoid the middle man and give directly to charities that have a presence in the region. Check out the ultimate recipients of the donations to ensure that the organizations are equipped to effectively provide aid.
- Gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations may not be appropriate. Unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to distribute such aid, the donations may be more of a burden than a help. Ask the charity about their transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief.
For more information about charities or to get a BBB Business Review.
The bureau advises people to look for information about charities at its website, www.bbb.org.