If Donating To Disaster Relief Funds And Charities Is Your Thing, You Better Be Aware Of Charitable Scams After Disasters!
For an empathetic human being, natural disasters are the cause of sorrow and loss but for opportunists and scammers, these are only windows for new opportunities – disaster scams. Yes, disaster scams are real and if you aren’t careful enough, you might fall prey to such scams.
Usually, any disastrous event is backed by generous donations both nationally and internationally. Scammers and fraudsters use this opportunity to come up with fake charity and relief funds to dupe people into donating their money to them. For instance, during the case of Hurricane Sandy, even before it entered New Jersey, thousands of bogus and illegitimate charities and reliefs funds had cropped up. And this is not just true of Hurricane Sandy but also of every major disaster that has hit the country so far.
After a disaster, it’s the peak time for scammers to get active and go crazy with their spam mails, along with text messages and annoying phone calls. While some scammers create illegitimate websites to extract your personal and sensitive information (such as credit card number, bank account number, Social Security Number) to accept donations from you, some others use your confidential information for identity theft. Also, if you interact with such bogus websites, there remains the chance that scammers will infect your computer with malware and hack into your system and extract your passwords.
So, the bottom line – if you’re among those who donate generously after a disaster has hit the country, you should keep an eye out for such scams and avoid them. In light of this situation, H. Art Taylor of the Better Business Bureau states:
“Tragedies inspire people to give…After every natural disaster and manmade catastrophe, we see an outpouring of generosity…along with the inevitable scams and frauds. We urge donors to take the time to make sure their donations are going to legitimate charities.”
Now, the real question is – how do you figure out whether or not a charity is legitimate?
Here are a few tips that’ll help you keep disaster scams at bay and ensure that your money is going to the right place!
The foremost step you must take before you donate your big bucks to any charity is to verify its credibility, authenticity, and efficiency. There are many websites to help you establish the credibility of charities such as Wise Giving Alliance, GuideStar, Charity Navigator, and Charity Watch. Furthermore, you can also contact your state agency that regulates charities within the state and investigate whether or not a charity is registered with them.
2. Scrutinize the websites carefully.
Often, scammers create websites with sound-alike names just to confuse you. For instance, take the Cancer Research Institute and the American Institute for Cancer Research – they sound alike, don’t they? While these are credible organizations, scammers may create websites with similar names that look ‘authentic’. So, you may think that you are giving to a genuine organization, you might really be providing your hard-earned money to scammers. Also, another thing to note is that the web addresses of legitimate charitable organizations end in ‘.org’ and not in ‘.com’.
3. Best avoid unknown institutions or individuals.
When it comes to donating money, you should always donate to renowned and well-established organizations like the United Way Worldwide, Salvation Army, Feeding America, American Red Cross, to name a few. Since these are established and well-known institutions, when you donate to them you can be sure that your money is going to people who actually need it.
Scammers do not just operate from behind the computer, but they can also approach you in person by selling you an emotional and moving tale about how he/she and their organization plans to help disaster victims and so on. Our advice to you – stay away from such people who seem pushy about taking your donation no matter how genuine they sound.
4. Never believe the claim – 100% of donations are dedicated to charity.
It just cannot be. Every charity has to deduct administrative and fundraising expenses (which is ideally anywhere between 25-35%) and then give away the rest for charitable programs and services. So, if a charity claims to commit the entire 100% to charitable acts, be sure that it’s shady business.
5. Check if the charity has a branch operating in the disaster-affected areas.
When donating to a relief fund or charity to help speed the recovery and relief process, you need to make sure that the institution you’re donating to has a branch or at least a few staff members operating in the affected areas. If not, your donations may not reach in time and thus, ultimately defeat your purpose of extending help to the victims.
Scammers will always be on the go to fool you, but you can avoid it successfully if you abide by these five steps.
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