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BBB: As hurricanes wreak havoc on neighbors, fraudsters lie in waiting; here are helpful guidelines

Hurricane Ian damaging the West Coast of Florida and last week Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rick and the Domincan Republic, so of course generous and thoughtful citizens want to do what they can to help. Sadly, fraudsters are on the prowl as well.

To assist donors seeking to support relief efforts while avoiding cons, BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers the following giving tips along with a list of BBB Accredited Charities (i.e., those that must meet all 20 of the BBB Charity Standards) that are soliciting for Hurricane Ian and Fiona activities.

“We all want to help – it’s our nature to give. To be most impactful, it pays to think it through. Charities should always be thoroughly vetted before donating to avoid scams and information theft,” reminded BBB President Judy Dollison.

Here are the question to ask yourself:

• Is the disaster appeal clear?
 Seek out appeals that are upfront and clear about what disaster relief services you are supporting. There are many possibilities such as temporary shelter, food, medical care, and other emergency needs. Don’t assume what a charity does based solely on the group’s name. A previous Give.org Donor Trust Report issued by BBB Wise Giving Alliance demonstrated that only 24% of donors believe disaster relief appeals are “clear.”

• Does the charity already have a presence in the impacted area?  Charities that already have support staff in the impacted areas are more likely to deliver help quickly at a time of immediate need. Also, some charities may be raising money to pass along to other relief organizations. If so, you may want to consider “avoiding the middleman” and give directly to charities that have a presence in the region.

• Is the charity an experienced relief organization? Experienced relief organizations will be able to provide help with greater speed and efficiency than a newly created effort.

• If considering crowdfunding, do you know its procedures? Some crowdfunding sites take measures to vet postings after a disaster, others don’t. Review the site’s policies and procedures to find out. If in doubt, it is always safest to donate to people who you personally know and trust.

• Give monetary donations instead of items. Charities may lack staff and infrastructure to move physical donations to areas in need efficiently. Donating money is the quickest way to help and provides charities the flexibility to channel resources to impacted areas.

• Does the organization meet the 20 BBB Charity Standards? BBB recommends donating to charities that meet all 20 of the BBB Standards for Charity Accountability. Visit BBB’s Give.org to access free evaluative reports on charities.

• Be Cautious About 100 Percent Claims. If a charity claims that 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims, see if they also provide an explanation of how this is achieved. Even if the charity is using other funds to cover administrative and fundraising costs, those expenses still exist.

The following organizations are BBB Accredited Charities (i.e., must meet the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability) and currently announced on their respective websites that they are collecting funds to assist Hurricane Ian relief efforts. Additional BBB Accredited Charities will be added as we learn about their Ian and Fiona related activities.

American Red Cross – Hurricane Ian Activities
Direct Relief – Hurricane Ian Activities
GlobalGiving – Hurricane Ian Activities
Heart to Heart International – Hurricane Ian Activities
Operation USA – Hurricane Ian Activities
Salvation Army – Hurricane Ian Activities
Save the Children – Hurricane Ian Activities

American Red Cross – Hurricane Fiona Activities
Direct Relief – Hurricane Fiona Activities
Episcopal Relief and Development – Hurricane Fiona Activities
Food for the Poor – Hurricane Fiona Activities
GlobalGiving – Hurricane Fiona Activities
Hispanic Federation – Hurricane Fiona Activities
Heart to Heart International – Hurricane Fiona Activities
International Medical Corps – Hurricane Fiona Activities
Operation USA – Hurricane Fiona Activities
Save the Children – Hurricane Fiona Activities
United Methodist Committee on Relief – Hurricane Fiona Activities

To report a scam, go to BBB.org/ScamTracker.

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