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In Denver & Boulder, Colorado
How to Help Colorado Flood Victims
September 17, 2013

DENVER – While several Colorado areas are still in emergency situations due to historic flooding, many are looking for ways to help. As Colorado has seen major tragedies in recent years, the Better Business Bureau of Denver/Boulder warns donors to give wisely and avoid unethical charities and scams.

The BBB says charity scams are extremely common on social media websites and warns users to beware of fake fundraisers, even if they appear to be recommended by people you know. In recent disasters like the 2012 wildfires, scammers tried to raise money on behalf of victims by pretending to be family members. These were done through Facebook, text message, in person and by phone.

Donors are advised to avoid giving donations over the phone and to never donate in cash. The best method of payment is via credit card due to added fraud protection.

The BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers additional tips to help citizens decide where to direct donations to assist Colorado flood victims:

Be cautious when giving online.
Be cautious about online giving, especially in response to social media posts and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. If you want to give to a charity involved in relief efforts, go directly to the charity’s website and check it out with the BBB before donating. In response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the Asian tsunamis of several years ago, the FBI and others raised concerns about websites and new organizations that were created overnight, allegedly to help victims.

Rely on expert opinion when it comes to evaluating a charity.
Be cautious when relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers or other websites, as they may not have fully researched the relief organizations they list. Visit
denver.bbb.org/charity to research charities and relief organizations. Verify that they are BBB Accredited and meet the BBB’s 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.

Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims.
Despite what an organization might claim, charities have fund raising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee. If a charity claims 100 percent of collected funds will be assisting hurricane victims, the truth is that the organization is still probably incurring fund raising and administrative expenses. It may use some of its other funds to pay these costs, but the expenses will still be incurred.

Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas.
Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to bring in new aid workers to provide assistance quickly. See if the charity’s website clearly describes what the charity can do to address immediate needs.

Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups.
Some charities may be raising money to pass along to relief organizations. If so, consider “avoiding the middleman” and giving directly to those that have a presence in the region. Or, at a minimum, check out the ultimate recipients of these donations to see whether they are equipped to provide aid effectively.

Gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations.
In-kind drives for food and clothing, while well intentioned, may not necessarily be the quickest way to help those in need – unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to distribute such aid properly. Ask the charity about its transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance.

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About the BBB

The BBB is an unbiased nonprofit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB Accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. The BBB provides objective advice, BBB Business Reviews, BBB Charity Reports and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, your BBB also offers dispute resolution services for consumers and businesses. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, there are 113 local, independent BBBs across the U. S. and Canada. Please visit denver.bbb.org for more information.