Even as rescue workers rush to the Atlantic Coast to help victims of Hurricane Sandy, Samaritans around the world are looking for ways to help victims of the devastating storm.
Better Business Bureau urges donors to be cautious when giving money or other help to charities.
Every natural disaster is followed by the crooks and scammers. If you are giving money or donating goods, you want to do everything possible to make sure your donations are doing real good.
The best way to help is to give money to a reputable humanitarian organization like the American Red Cross, a BBB Charity Seal holder. The American Red Cross has a long history of responding to local, national, and international disasters.
BBB offers the following tips to help you decide where to direct donations:
- Rely on respected experts to check a charity. Be cautious when relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers, because they may not have fully researched the listed relief organizations. BBB provides a Wise Giving Guide to charities at www.bbb.org/charity. The guide shows which charities are accredited by the BBB and whether they meet BBB’s 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.
- Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations help victims. All charities have fund-raising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at least, a processing fee.
- Be cautious when giving online to unfamiliar charities. Be wary of spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. After the tsunami disaster in 2004 and the earthquake in Haiti last year, many websites and organizations that were created overnight allegedly to help victims turned out to be scams.
- Find out if the charity is in the affected areas. Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to get new aid workers into the area to give help. See if the charity’s website clearly describes what it can do to discuss immediate needs.
- Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups. You may want to avoid the middleman and give directly to charities that are in the region. Check out the last recipients of the donations to make sure that the organizations are equipped to effectively give aid.
- Gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations may not be proper. Unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to distribute such aid, the donations may be more of a burden than a help. Ask the charity about their transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance.