Be on the lookout for scams as fundraising efforts kick in for H - Tucson News Now

Be on the lookout for scams as fundraising efforts kick in for Hurricane Harvey

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Arizonans are urged to be on the lookout for charity scams, via face Facebook pages, and scam charity websites.  

According to news releases from AZ Attorney General Mark Brnovich, the Better Business Bureau, and BBB Wise Giving Alliance warnings are going out to be careful when contributing to a Hurricane Harvey relief fund.  

“Low-life cyber scum are exploiting this disaster using fake social media accounts,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich, in a news release. "When a natural disaster strikes, many of us ask, how can we help? Giving is good, but it’s important to donate to a legitimate charity that has experience helping victims quickly.”

AG Brnovich offers the following tips to avoid charity scams:

  • If you want to make a donation, go to the website of the charity of your choice and make a donation. Do not click on any links in emails or texts you might receive.
  • Donate to charities you know and trust. Beware of charities that seem to have appeared overnight in connection with current events.
  • Ask if a caller is a paid fundraiser, who they work for, and what percentage of your donation goes to the charity and to the fundraiser. If you don’t get a clear answer - or if you don’t like the answer you get - consider donating to a different organization.
  • Don’t give out personal or financial information - including your credit card or bank account number - unless you know the charity is reputable, and never give that information over the phone.
  • Never send cash: you can’t be sure the organization will receive your donation, and you won’t have a record for tax purposes.
  • Check out charities with the Better Business Bureau's (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.
  • To report suspected charity fraud to the Attorney General’s Office, please file a consumer complaint at https://www.azag.gov/complaints/consumer or contact the Consumer Information and Complaints Unit in Phoenix at (602) 542-5763 and in Tucson at (520) 628-6504.

“The devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey prompts us to do what we can to help as soon as possible,” said H. Art Taylor, president and CEO of BBB Wise Giving Alliance (BBB’s www.Give.org,), in another news release. “But donors need to be aware of some key cautions so that their generosity will get to those in need quickly.” 

BBBs are already seeing crowdfunding appeals of a dubious nature, and in the days ahead expect to see “storm chasers” looking to make a quick buck off of clean-up efforts (www.bbb.org/storm . Consumers can report suspected scams to BBB Scam Tracker (www.bbb.org/scamtracker) or the Texas Attorney General’s hotline (800-621-0508 or consumeremergency@nag.texas.gov)  .

BBB Wise Giving Alliance suggests that donors keep the following tips in mind to help avoid questionable appeals for support:

  1. Verify the trustworthiness of soliciting relief organizations by visiting Give.org to access free reports that specify if the charity meets the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability.
  2. See if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas. Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to bring in new aid workers to provide assistance quickly. See if the charity’s website clearly describes what the charity can do to address immediate needs. 
  3. 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 giving directly to those that have a presence in the region. Or, at a minimum, check out the ultimate recipients of these donations to see whether they are equipped to provide aid effectively. 
  4. Be cautious about 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 distribute such aid properly. Ask the charity about its transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance. 
  5. Understand crowdfunding. Keep in mind that some crowdfunding sites do very little vetting of individuals who decide to post for assistance after a disaster, and it is often difficult for donors to verify the trustworthiness of crowdfunding requests for support. If you decide to contribute via crowdfunding, it is probably best to give to people who you personally know that have posted requests for assistance. For more Give.org tips on crowdfunding, check out this Wise Giving Wednesday post.
  6. Phases of disaster relief. Remember that every disaster has several phases – rescue, emergency relief, and recovery. Each part relies on public support and continuing funding for success. The need for donations doesn’t stop when the headlines do.
  7. Recovery time line. For many communities, recovery will be a long-term activity that can take many months or years to accomplish, depending on the extent of the damage. Those truly concerned about helping communities bounce back will have many opportunities to help.
  8. Disaster planning. Although it may seem obvious, no one wants to experience a repeat performance of a disaster. Areas that work toward recovery will probably also need to develop plans to better respond to a similar storm in the future. Even those that already had measures in place can find ways to improve based on experience.

The following is a list of BBB Accredited Charities (i.e., organizations that meet the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability) that are raising funds for Hurricane Harvey relief assistance. This list will be updated as additional relief efforts come to BBB WGA’s attention. 

  • American Red Cross
  • AmeriCares
  • Church World Service
  • Direct Relief
  • GlobalGiving Foundation
  • Humane Society of the United States
  • Islamic Relief USA
  • MAP International
  • Operation USA
  • Salvation Army
  • Save the Children
  • United Methodist Committee on Relief
  • United Way of Greater Houston

For more information on BBB Wise Giving Alliance, click here

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Copyright 2017 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

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