Stories of scammers looking to profit after Hurricane Sandy and the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary have been in the news. In the wake of tragedy or disaster, scammers prey upon the strong emotions of those seeking to help. You can avoid such predators and make sure your donation goes where you intend by doing some quick research.
Consider donating to reputable charities that are known for their efforts in disaster relief or for providing services after tragedies. A charity that emerges the day after the dust settles may be legitimate but may also have more difficulty in allocating funds.
If you get a phone call asking for your donation, be suspicious and ask your own questions.
Is the caller a paid fundraiser? Whom do they work for? What percentage of your donation goes to the charity and to the fundraiser?
If the fundraiser fails to answer these questions, you should hang up. If pressured for an immediate donation, decline.
You can research and donate at a later time. Also, you can call the charity and ask if they are aware of the call soliciting in their name.
Do not give your personal and financial information, including credit card and bank account numbers, to an unsolicited caller or unverified charity. Once you know the charity is reputable, you can feel secure calling in your donation, giving through the mail, or donating online at a secure website (those that start with https://).>
Never send cash for two reasons. First, the organization may not receive the donation and there is no way to verify if they did. Second, cash donations do not automatically create a record for tax purposes like checks and credit cards do. Similarly, do not wire money. Just like with cash, once you send it, you cannot get it back.
You can find out which organizations are eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions by checking with the IRS at www.irs.gov/Charities -&-Non-Profits/.
Whether you plan your charitable giving each year or respond as needs arise in your community and around the world, you can be sure that your contributions are being used for the purposes you had in mind.
Erin T. Dodge, BBB editor