Wise giving after a weather emergency
The recent outbreak of tornadoes and other violent weather that took lives and pulverized homes and businesses from the Midwest to the Deep South is a sad reminder that extreme weather can occur with little warning.
As we know, when a disaster strikes, bogus charities aren’t far behind. The FTC urges you to be on guard against scam artists who try to take advantage of someone else’s tragedy.
If you’re donating money to a charity, here’s how to make sure your dollars go to the causes you support.
- Donate to charities you know and trust. Find a charity with a track record of dealing with natural disasters. Be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight in connection with current events. Check out the charity with the Better Business Bureau's (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.
- Designate the disaster. Charities may give the option to designate your giving to a specific disaster. That way, you can ensure your funds are going to disaster relief, rather than a general fund.
- 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.
- Never send cash: you can’t be sure the organization will receive your donation, and you won’t have a record for tax purposes.
- Find out if the charity or fundraiser must be registered in your state by contacting the National Association of State Charity Officials.
For more on the questions to ask and for a list of groups that can help you research a charity, go to Charity Scams.