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Better Business Bureau ®
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In Denver & Boulder, Colorado
Donate Wisely and Avoid Storm-Related Charity Scams
May 01, 2014

BBB warns of dishonest fundraising and provides wise giving advice

DENVER – As the storm season begins and news of the devastation emerges following the tornadoes across Midwest and southern states this week, as well as severe flooding in Florida, the Better Business Bureau of Denver/Boulder warns to beware of charity-related fraud. Attempts to take advantage of disaster victims is common according to the BBB, as it receives reports of suspicious activity following disasters including the local floods, fires and other tragedies during recent years.

“When disasters strike, we desperately want to help as quickly as possible,” said Su Hawk, president and CEO for the BBB of Denver/Boulder. “But just as quickly as we want to help, scam artists create fake charities and fundraisers to take advantage of our good will. We urge donors to check out any fundraiser or charity before giving, and to be especially cautious online and on social media sites.”

The BBB advises donors to limit charitable giving to organizations they know and trust. Scammers can have a website, social media page, or phone number set up immediately to collect your “donations,” that look very official. The BBB warns that fundraisers or supposed charities use familiar-sounding names or try to appear to be affiliated with legitimate organizations, but are not.

Also, in recent disasters like the 2012 Colorado 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. Regarding individual funds, the BBB advises:

  • Verify a fund’s legitimacy before donating (research contact info for where the money must go, see if it has been publicized by news outlets, etc.).
  • Do not donate money to someone who comes to your door or solicits in a public place without checking it out first, no matter who they say they are.
  • Also, know that such funds are not subject to any of the same laws, rules, or standards that traditional charitable organizations are – including that donations are generally not tax deductible.

Additional wise giving tips:

  • Check out charities with the BBB. Detailed BBB Charity Reviews are accessed for free at denver.bbb.org or by calling (303) 758-2100. Also find BBB Accredited Charities at findacompany.org. Note that individual memorial funds will not have a BBB report as they are not subject to BBB standards.
  • Do not give donations over the phone. You cannot easily verify who is on the other end. Either donate to the organization in person, by mail only sending to a verified and trusted address or on the charity’s secure and trusted website.
  • Do not ever pay with cash (pay with check or credit card) and be wary of anyone that wants to send a courier or use an overnight delivery service to pick up your donation. Do not ever pay via wire transfer. Requests for wire transfers are always a sign of a scam.
  • Beware of charities that use names or similar sounding names of well-known and trusted organizations. Always verify they are who they say they are. For instance, if they say they’re with the Red Cross, ask which chapter and call directly to verify the solicitor before donating.
  • Refuse high-pressure appeals. If the organization is legitimate, they’ll still need your donation tomorrow or whenever you are ready to give.

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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 112 local, independent BBBs across the U. S. and Canada. Please visit denver.bbb.org for more information.