In the wake of the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, BBB Wise Giving Alliance is warning donors about potential red flags in fund raising and charity scams to help the Las Vegas shooting victims and their families. BBB is also cautioning donors to be aware of the different circumstances that often emerge in tragedy-related philanthropy.
"Whenever tragedy strikes, so do scammers," says Mary O'Sullivan-Andersen, president and CEO of BBB Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay. "With technology creating more opportunities for people to donate, it also creates more opportunity for scammers to re-victimize people. In the interest of advancing marketplace trust, BBB strongly encourages people to research the organization they are supporting to ensure donations actually reach those in need."
Investigate before you donate with these Ten Tips for Giving with Confidence from BBB Wise Giving Alliance.
1. Thoughtful Giving: Take the time to check out the charity to avoid wasting your generosity by donating to a questionable or poorly managed effort. The first request for a donation may not be the best choice. Be proactive and find trusted charities that are providing assistance.
2. Check Government Registration:
Legitimate Canadian charities must be registered with Canada Revenue Agency
. Ask to see proof of the charity's CRA registration. If they can't prove their credentials, it may be a red flag.
3. Respecting Victims and Their Families: Organizations raising funds should get permission from the families to use either the names of the victims and/or any photographs of them. Some charities raising funds for the victims of previous shootings did not do this and were the subject of criticism from victims' families.
4. How Will Donations Be Used? Watch out for vague appeals that don't identify the intended use of funds. For example, how will the donations help victims' families? Also, unless told otherwise, donors will assume that funds collected quickly in the wake of a tragedy will be spent just as quickly. See if the appeal identifies when the collected funds will be used.
5. What if a Family Sets Up Its Own Assistance Fund? Some families may decide to set up their own assistance funds online. Be mindful that such funds may not be set up as charities. Also, make sure that collected monies are received and administered by a third party such as a bank, CPA or lawyer. This will help provide oversight and ensure the collected funds are used appropriately (e.g., paying for funeral costs, counselling, and other tragedy-related needs.)
6. Advocacy Organizations: Tragedies that involve violent acts with firearms can also generate requests from a variety of advocacy organizations that address gun use. Donors can support these efforts as well but note that some of these advocacy groups are not tax exempt as charities. Also, watch out for newly created advocacy groups that will be difficult to check out.
7. Online Cautions: Never click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites or in texts or emails. These may take you to a lookalike website where you will be asked to provide personal financial information or to click on something that downloads harmful malware into your computer. Don't assume that charity recommendations on Facebook, blogs or other social media have already been vetted.
8. Financial Transparency: After funds are raised for a tragedy, it is even more important for organizations to provide an accounting of how funds were spent. Transparent organizations will post this information on their websites so that anyone can find out and not have to wait until the audited financial statements are available sometime in the future.
9. Newly Created or Established Organizations: This is a personal giving choice, but an established charity will more likely have the experience to quickly address the circumstances and have a track record that can be evaluated. A newly formed organization may be well-meaning but will be difficult to check out and may not be well managed.
10. Tax Deductibility: Charities registered with the Canadian Revenue Agency are able to issue official donation receipts for income tax purposes. Keep this in mind if you want to make donations to help a specific individual/family, which may not be deductible as charitable donations, even if the recipient organization is a charity.