Post-Disaster Charity Fraud
Look for transparency when donating
It is said that where there is smoke, there is fire. But it should also be said that where there is money, there are cons. Few things in this world demonstrate the depth of humanity as disasters do. When the worst catastrophes happen, people from all over the globe send aid. The unfortunate, dark consequence of charitable relief funds is that scam artists prey on that human instinct to help others.
One common way scammers operate is to create a fake charity and solicit donations from well-meaning individuals. They claim that the money will help those affected by the disaster, but the funds go straight into the swindlers’ pockets. Another fraudulent act involves a pretender claiming to be a representative of legitimate charities or relief organizations and asking for donations. They commonly use high-pressure tactics to get people to give money quickly before they have had a chance to do their research.
So, how can consumers protect themselves from post-disaster scams? The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers some tips:
- Go slow. Don’t be in a hurry to give. Investigate any charity or relief organization to ensure they are legitimate. A little research will help you see if the charity has a good reputation.
- Be wary of unsolicited requests for donations. Be cautious if someone calls you or comes to your door asking for money for a charity. Legitimate charities will not use high-pressure tactics to get you to give.
- Ask questions. If you consider donating, ask the charity how the money will be used. Legitimate charities should be able to provide you with detailed information about how your donation will be utilized.
- Don’t give cash. Whenever possible, use a credit card or check to donate. These payment options will allow you to track your donation and ensure it goes where it should go.
The FTC lists several watchdog organizations that can help consumers ensure their donations go to legitimate charities. For example, Charity Navigator is an organization that rates charities based on their financial health, accountability, and transparency. The Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance also provides information about charities and how they use their donations. Check out the complete list here.
In a nutshell, we must all be aware of post-disaster scammers and how they operate. By doing our research, asking questions, and being cautious, we can ensure that our donations go to legitimate charities and relief organizations that genuinely make a difference in the lives of those affected by disasters.