Better Business Bureau Cautions Consumers to Watch Out for Scammers in Wake of Connecticut School Shootings

December 18, 2012

CHICAGO, IL – December 18,2012 – Charity scammers strike after violent tragedies such as the Colorado theater shootings and now the Newtown school shooting. The Better BusinessBureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois (BBB) is alerting consumers of thepossibility of phony charity solicitations, supposedly on behalf of thefamilies of victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown last Friday. The BBB recommendsdonors avoid giving to charities or funds through unsolicited phone calls,emails, texts or social media appeals.

“Many people are interested in helping othersby donating to a charity. Give wisely by checking on the organization beforegiving and make sure that your donation is being used for it’s intended purposeby a trustworthy charity.” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of theBetter Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois.

The BBB recommends askingthe following questions before choosing to donate to a specific charity:

Is this a charityI can trust?  Look at the appeal carefully; some charitieshave similar sounding names. Don't be fooled by names that look impressive orthat closely resemble the name of a well-known organization. Check with yourappropriate state government authorities (this is usually a division of thestate’s office of the attorney general) to verify the charity is registered tosolicit in your state.  Also, visit the website of the BBB Wise GivingAlliance ( to findout whether a national charity meets the 20 BBB charity standards that addresscharity governance, finances, fund raising, donor privacy, and otheraccountability issues.

How will thecharity use my donation? Ask questions about how your donation will be used.Beware of appeals that bring tears to your eyes but tell you little about whatthe charity is doing about the problem it describes so well. For example, ifthe charity says it’s helping the homeless, do they explain how (shelter, food,medical care) and where this is taking place?

Watch out for statements such as "all proceeds willgo to the charity." This can mean that only the money left after expenses, such as thecost of written materials and fund raising efforts, will go to the charity.These expenses can be high, so check carefully.

Is my donationtax deductible? If youwant to take a charitable deduction for federal income tax purposes, make surethe organization is tax exempt as a charity under section 501(c)(3) of theInternal Revenue Code.  A charity appeal will usually include a referenceto this. To verify a charity’s tax status, access an IRS database oforganizations by viewing Publication 78 on the IRS website at Consult your tax advisor fordetails.

Can the charityactually use what I’m donating?  All charitieswelcome the receipt of monetary donations, but some also solicit in-kinddonations such as clothing, food, and toys.  If you’re planning to donateitems to a worthy cause, make sure you know the in-kind contributions yourcharity prefers.  For example, a food bank may prefer food items that arenot perishable such as canned goods, and a toy drive may be seeking new and notused toys.

Am I feelingpressured to give?  Don't succumb to pressure togive money on the spot, either immediately over the phone via credit card or byallowing a "runner" to pick up a contribution. Take the time toresearch the charity fully; the charity that needs your money today will welcomeit just as much tomorrow.

The Connecticut BBB hasprovided some trustworthy charities to make donations to in this time of need:

Donationsmay be sent to:

Sandy Hook School Support Fund:
c/o NewtownSavings Banks
39 Main Street
Newtown, CT 06470.

Newtown Savings Bank collaborationworking with the United Wayand Red Cross:
Phone: 800-461-0672 
Donationscan also be made online at

The Newtown Rotary Club:
Donationscan also be made online at

For more advice on givingand to view reports on charities visit


As aprivate, non-profit organization, the purpose of the Better Business Bureau isto promote an ethical marketplace. BBBs help resolve buyer/seller complaints bymeans of conciliation, mediation and arbitration. BBBs also review advertisingclaims, online business practices and charitable organizations. BBBs developand issue reports on businesses and nonprofit organizations and encouragepeople to check out a company or charity before making a purchase or donation.