As a growing number of people donate to relief agencies and charities to help victims of Hurricane Ike and other recent storms, the Better Business Bureau is urging donors to look out for scams.
The BBB Wise Giving Alliance, a group formed in 2001 to evaluate charities, offers the following advice to make sure donations go to worthy charities:
Before making a contribution, visit www.bbb.org/charity to obtain detailed reports on charities.
If giving by phone or online, you should initiate contact with the charity so you know what organization you are contacting.
Keep an eye out for fake charities that imitate the names of well-known groups.
Do not give your credit card number or other personal information to a telephone solicitor or in response to an e-mail solicitation.
Do not give cash or send money via wire transfer. Give by credit card, check or money order. Checks or money orders should be made out to the name of the charitable organization, not to the individual collecting the donation.
Do not feel pressured to make a contribution on the spot, especially if they offer to send a “runner” to pick up your contribution in person.
Be wary of charities that are reluctant to answer reasonable questions about their operations, finances and programs. Do not hesitate to ask for written information that describes the charity's programs and finances.
Find out what the charity intends to do with any excess contributions remaining after they have fully funded the disaster relief activities mentioned in solicitations.
Think twice about donating to any charity that is inexperienced in carrying out relief efforts, but is soliciting for hurricane relief. Although well-intentioned, such groups might not have the ability to quickly deliver aid to those in need.
Be wary of appeals that are long on emotion but short on describing what the charity will do to address the needs of victims.
To ensure your contribution is tax deductible, donations should be made to charitable organizations that are tax exempt, 501(c)(3) charities.
For more information on the BBB Wise Giving Alliance and to view more than 1,000 BBB reports on charities across the nation, visit www.give.org.