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Better Business Bureau ®
Start With Trust®
In Louisville, Southern Indiana and Western Kentucky
BBB Urges Consumers to Give Wisely in Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy
October 31, 2012

Even as rescue workers rush to the Atlantic Coast to assist victims of Hurricane Sandy, Samaritans around the world are looking for ways to help victims of the storm.

Better Business Bureau is urging donors to be cautious when giving money or other assistance to charities.

“When a natural disaster occurs, scam artists come out of the wood work,” said Charlie Mattingly, President/CEO of the BBB serving Louisville, Southern Indiana, and Western Kentucky. “If you are giving money or donating goods, you want to do everything possible to make sure your donations are getting to the right people.”

The best way to help is to donate money to a reputable humanitarian organization that has a long history of responding to local, national, and international disasters. The BBB offers the following tips to help you decide where to direct 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 donation will involve, at a minimum, 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 and the earthquake in Haiti last year, many websites and organizations that were created overnight allegedly to help victims turned out to be scams.
  • Be cautious of organizations with copy-cat names. They may be similar, but not exactly the same as the reputable charities.
  • · Find out if the charity has a presence in the impacted 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 middleman 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 assistance.

    · Do NOT be pressured into making contributions, as reputable charities do NOT use such tactics.

    BBB warns, to also be cautious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files, because the files may contain viruses. For more information about charities or to get a BBB Charity Review, check with the BBB at www.bbb.org or by calling 800-388-2222.