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BBB Warns Local Consumers, Businesses about Potential for Fire-Related Charity Scams

6/20/2011

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Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona is warning consumers about bogus charities that could be set up under the guise of assisting victims of the Monument Fire.

“Sadly, con-artists come out of the woodwork at times like this,” said Kim States, president of the local BBB. “Scammers follow the headlines to stay on top of what’s going to get to the hearts and wallets of people who want to help.”

Many scam artists will contact consumers and businesses by phone, mail, or door-to-door solicitation and use high-pressure sales tactics to get donations. Some will go as far as setting up Websites to get your money.

States says the best way to protect yourself is not react to high pressure tactics.

“Take time to verify the legitimacy of the appeal,” she adds. “If it’s a legitimate charity they will take your money just as willingly tomorrow or next week.”

BBB offers the following tips:

  • Get the full name of the organization that is soliciting to ensure the charity you are contributing to is the one you think it is. In an attempt to fool consumers, some scam artists set up charities under names that sound very similar to mainstream relief organizations.
  • If you’re giving to a charity that promises to provide relief to victims, make sure the organization is experienced in disaster relief. There are many logistics involved with getting relief to victims, and you’ll want to select charities that have proven track records in navigating those situations.
  • If donating food, clothing or other supplies make sure the charity you’re giving these items to has resources on site to get donated items in the hands of those in need.
  • Avoid writing checks that are payable to an individual solicitor unless that person is well-known to you. Make checks out to the actual relief organization.
  • If donating online, search the Website to ensure the charity has a physical address on the site and that you’re using a secure site when entering account information. A Website is secure if an “s” is located at the end of http:// in the URL.
  • Stay informed by checking in with local government Websites, information centers and trusted news sources. Updates on evacuations and other details about the Monument Fire can be found at www.cochise.az.gov; lists of donation items needed as well businesses and individuals that are offering assistance in Cochise County can be found at www.sierravistaaz.gov.

If you are unsure about a solicitation for cash or other donations, get as much information as you can about the charity or individual and contact your BBB. In Cochise County call 520-732-9823, for residents in Pima, Santa Cruz, Graham and Greenlee Counties, call 520-888-5353 or email info@tucson.bbb.org.
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