Fort McMurray: Times of Need Bring out the Scammers

May 04, 2016


Vancouver, BC –The dire images and videos of Fort McMurray, Alberta, engulfed in a raging wildfire are hard to fathom. We can be grateful for the fact no one has been seriously injured or killed in the disaster, but the loss of property and the need for assistance is starting to mount as tens of thousands of people flee the area.

However, BBB warns that times of need can often bring out those who would rather take advantage of a bad situation for their own nefarious purposes.

“It’s the lowest of the low,” says Evan Kelly, Senior Communications Advisor for Better Business Bureau serving Mainland B.C. “The goodness of humanity reaches out to help and they fall victim to fake charity websites or illicit door-to-door solicitations claiming to help people in affected regions. Not only are these crooks capitalizing on the suffering of others, it prevents that money from going to those who need it.”


Avoid a donation disaster with BBBcharity tips:

  • Be cautious when giving online. Watch out for spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. If you are seeking to give to a charitable organization involved in relief efforts, go directly to the charity's website.
  • Instigate the donation process yourself. Don’t respond to unsolicited requests for money.
  • Be wary of bad grammar. Avoid if the website contains poor grammar, spelling mistakes, and faulty links.
  • Be cautious when giving money online. Make sure the website URL begins with https:// The ‘S’ stands for secure.
  • Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas. See if the charity's website clearly describes what they can do to address immediate needs. Watch out for charities that don't already have staff in the affected areas as they may not be able to provide assistance quickly.
  • Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups. Some charities may be raising money to pass along to relief organizations. If so, you may want to consider "avoiding the middleman" and give directly to charities that have a presence in the region. Or at least check out the ultimate recipients of these donations to ensure the organizations are equipped to actually provide aid.
  • Rely on expert opinion when it comes to evaluating a charity. Be careful when relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers or other websites, as they might not have fully researched the listed relief organizations. Check with the Canada Revenue Agency’s charity listings for information on legitimate organizations.
  • Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims. Despite what an organization might claim, charities have fund raising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at minimum, a processing fee.
  • Gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations. In-kind drives for food and clothing, while well intentioned, may not necessarily be the quickest way to help those in need, unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to be able to properly distribute such aid. Ask the charity about their transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance. 


When Donating to the Red Cross, be aware:


  • The Red Cross does not send out emails soliciting for money, ever.
  • The Red Cross accepts payment on its website in two ways; credit card or Pay Pal, no third party money transfers.
  • Official website



Media Contacts:


Evan Kelly, Senior Communications Advisor BBB Serving Mainland BC                                                                                                                   604-488-8702                                                                                                                                                                                                                     604-505-2307                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                404-788 Beatty Street                                                                                                                                                                                                         Vancouver, BC                                                                                                                                                                                                                       V6B 2M1

About BBB:

For over 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been a public reporting agency serving North America. In 2015, consumers turned to BBB serving Mainland B.C. more than 2 million times for Business Reviews. Local BBB staff processed over 7,500 complaints in 2015.  Business Reviews are all available for free at