Hello. I’m Reghan Winkler, the new secretary general of the local Better Business Bureau. In the last column, my predecessor, Cheryl Person, announced her retirement. I continue her tradition of keeping readers informed of the latest scams and business trends and practices.
The Better Business Bureau has long warned that scammers love turmoil. Scammers know that people tend to become anxious and protect themselves or help others who may be at risk or suffering.
Americans quickly help those exposed to violence, natural disasters, and oppression. Unfortunately, the last two weeks of radio waves have been flooded with news of the collapse of Afghanistan and the consequent turmoil. We are overwhelmed by the image of enthusiastic American citizens and Afghans leaving the country. There is a tragedy of a desperate mother pushing her children against the barbed wire wall. We sympathize with them, sympathize with them, and look for ways to help, no matter how small our contributions are.
Scammers have already taken the leap to take advantage of this dire situation and have established fake accounts on crowdfunding sites, fake charities, and other fake donation campaigns. There are also email and social media petitions from criminals who claim to be stuck in Afghanistan in the guise of soldiers without access to their money.
All of these scenarios are designed to steal well-meaning money.
As with most humanitarian crises, there are well-established organizations dealing with affected areas, relying on coveted supplies and funds donated for relief efforts.
So how do you avoid contributing to fraud and organizations that can mishandle your donations? Consider the following tips.
• Before sending money, research the organizations and individuals who are considering donating. Make sure it is an established organization with a solid history of providing relief. If you can’t find information about a nonprofit or individual before the event occurs, think of it as a huge red flag.
• Crowdfunding sources such as GoFundMe are a great way to send money directly to victims. However, keep in mind that it is very difficult for these funders to know for sure that donations are being made to anyone who claims that their account is set up to help. If you donate this way, please be very careful.
• Contact a review site such as BBB or Charity Navigator to see if the charity you are considering is credible. These organizations are dedicated to assessing nonprofits. They are compiling information about highly rated nonprofits currently addressing “hot topics” such as the situation in Afghanistan.
• Perform an IRS Tax Exemption Organization Search (https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/tax-exempt-organization-search) to ensure that the organization you are trying to donate is registered with the IRS and donate. Make sure. They have tax deductions.
• Look up the web address carefully. Scammers often set up fake websites with slightly different versions of the names of well-known and trusted organizations, hoping to seduce people to send money to the wrong place.
• You can also consider donating to Americares, the GlobalGiving Foundation, Save The Children, or other approved BBB-accredited charities. A list of charities can be found at https://charityreports.bbb.org/public/accredited.aspx?bureauID=9999.
If you have any questions, please call the nearest BBB office (419-223-7010). We look forward to welcoming you.
Reghan Winkler is the Executive Director of Better Business Bureau, which serves the Midwestern Ohio. BBB can be found on the internet bbb.org/us/oh/lima..
Reghan Winkler: Tips for avoiding donations to scammers
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