CHICAGO, IL - March 14, 2011 – Featured news videos and media reports detailing the enormous damage from of the devastating earthquake and resulting tsunami that hit Japan last week resulted in damage even to the Hawaii and the west coast of the U.S. has prompted many Americans to consider making donations to charities that provide relief to survivors.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises potential donors to be cautious because fraudulent charities and individuals often crop up to take advantage of their sympathy for victims of natural disasters.
“Unfortunately, we’ve seen time and time again that scammers will try to take advantage of the generosity of the public after a disaster,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “That’s why it’s so important to take your time and do your research before donating to relief efforts.”
The best way to help is to donate money to a reputable humanitarian organization with a history of providing assistance in disasters and other crisis situations.
When making a donation of any kind, the BBB encourages consumers to follow to certain guidelines, including:
- Before donating, visit www.bbb.org/charity to research organizations you’re considering supporting.
- Be wary of charities that are reluctant to answer reasonable questions about their operations, finances and programs.
- Ask for written information about the charity’s program(s) and finances such as the charity’s latest annual report and financial statements.
- Ask what the charity intends to do with any excess contributions remaining once they’ve fully funded the disaster relief activities mentioned in solicitations.
- Don’t give cash. Checks or money orders should be made out to the name of the charitable organization, not to the individual collecting the donation.
- Beware of fake charities that imitate the name and style of well-known organizations in an attempt to confuse donors.
- Don’t give in to excessive pressure for on-the-spot donations. Be wary of any request to send a “runner” to pick up your contribution.
- Be wary of any charity that is inexperienced in carrying out relief efforts but is suddenly soliciting for aid in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami. Although well intentioned, they may not be able to quickly deliver aid to those in need.
- Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups. Check out the ultimate recipients of the donations to ensure that the organizations are equipped to effectively provide aid.
- Be wary of appeals that are long on emotion, but short on describing what the charity will do to address the needs of victims and their families.
- 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 they can do to address immediate needs.
- Don’t give your credit card number or other personal information to a telephone solicitor or in response to an e-mail solicitation.
- Make sure your contribution is tax deductible: donations should be made to charitable organizations that are tax exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Go to IRS Publication 78 on the IRS’ website for a current list of all organizations eligible to receive contributions deductible as charitable gifts
For more information you can trust when making giving decisions, or to view BBB Wise Giving Reports on charities across the nation, visit www.bbb.org
As a private, non-profit organization, the purpose of the Better Business Bureau is to promote an ethical marketplace. BBBs help resolve buyer/seller complaints by means of conciliation, mediation and arbitration. BBBs also review advertising claims, online business practices and charitable organizations. BBBs develop and issue reports on businesses and nonprofit organizations and encourage people to check out a company or charity before making a purchase or donation.