9/11 Anniversary Reminds Us to Donate Wisely

With the 12th anniversary of September 11, 2001 upon us, emotions still run high from the tragic events that unfolded that day.  Residual effects, including emotional, physical and psychological continue to plague victims and their families.  A number of charities have been created to assist the victims from 9/11 over the past 12 years, including charities that help pay for medical costs, create scholarships for relatives of victims, and contribute to build and upkeep memorials and exhibits so that we never forget who paid the ultimate sacrifice on that fateful day.

Unfortunately, it’s still all too common that we hear of scammers using emotional pleas associated with a tragedy like 9/11 to profit.  The tactics they use are similar to the makeup of the Newtown Charity Scams, which BBB discovered was one of the top scams from 2012.  Now, 12 years after 9/11, as we celebrate Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance, be mindful of warning signs that could signal a scam online, over the phone or through the mail:

Take your time – Scammers can often pressure victims to make a donation NOW, especially during phone calls.  Make sure to take the time to research the charity to avoid donating to a questionable fund.  Ask the caller details, including the name, address and phone number of the organization and tell them you’ll call them back when and if you’re ready to donate. Also inquire about how and when the funds will be used. To review a national charity, you can check BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance charity reviews here.

Social Media Cautions – Never click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites or in texts or emails. These may take you to a lookalike website where you will be asked to provide personal financial information or to click on something that downloads harmful malware into your computer. Don’t assume that charity recommendations on Facebook, blogs or other social media are secure.

Respecting Victims – Organizations raising funds should have permission from families to use names and pictures of victims. Images can help scammers appeal to potential victims’ emotions.  Some charities organized to help victims from the Colorado movie theater shooting and Newtown school victims did not have permission to use images and were subject to criticism from family members.

Charity Transparency – In order for a national charity to meet BBB Wise Giving Alliance Standards for Charity Accountability, it must be willing to provide full disclosure to donors and potential donors at the time of solicitation and thereafter. Transparent organizations should also be able to provide upon request, complete annual financial statements prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. As a potential donor, consider asking what percentage of your donation will benefit the actual charity or cause, as opposed to being used for fundraising efforts or administrative activities.

The BBB Wise Giving Alliance asks anyone who receives a suspicious charitable solicitation to report it to BBB Report a Scam. To check out a national charity review, click here.

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About Caitlin Driscoll

I have been the Public Relations Director of the Better Business Bureau of Western PA since November 2011.