Every major incident that causes material or emotional damage can be leveraged by scammers to make a profit. They did it after the Sandy Hurricane caused havoc and now they’re relying on the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown.
Crooks have already set up a website to collect donations on behalf of 6-year-old Noah Pozner, one of the victims of the massacre. Luckily, the family took over possession of the fraud site, but similar ones might already be out there.
That’s why the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has issued a warning, along with 10 useful tips on how to avoid falling victim to such scams.
One of the most important things you must do before making a donation is to check out the charity you’re donating to. They might not all be scams, but some of them do a poor job in handling the funds they’re given.
When looking to donate online, never trust charities recommended via unsolicited email or SMS messages. Also, beware of suspicious websites and advertisements that might be set up to infect your computer with malware.
Most US states require charity organizations to register with a government agency, such as the State Attorney’s General Office. If your state requires it and the charity is not registered, it might be a scam.
Always check how the money will be used and when it will be used. The BBB warns people to watch out for vague appeals.
Some of the victims’ families might set up their own assistance funds. When donating directly to the family, keep in mind that they might not be set up as a charity, and make sure that the money is administered properly by a bank, a CPA or a lawyer.
When it comes to choosing between new and established organizations, it all comes down to personal choice, but experts advise that newly created charities might not be well managed, despite the fact that they’re well-meaning.
The BBB provides some advice that should be taken into consideration by the charities themselves. They should never use the names or pictures of the victims without their family’s consent and they should always be transparent when it comes to showing how the money is spent.
Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that not all the organizations collecting funds to assist this tragedy are tax exempt. Also, the advocacy groups that might be collecting money to address issues such as the use of firearms are also not tax exempt.