BBB offers tips to avoid relief organization scams

The Better Business Bureau offers tips on avoiding relief organization scams.

Be cautious when giving online
Be cautious about spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. If you want to give to a charity involved in relief efforts, go directly to the charity’s website.

Rely on expert opinion when it comes to evaluating a charity
Be cautious when relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers or other websites, as they may not have fully researched the relief organizations they list. The public can go to give.org to research relief organizations and other charities to verify that they are accredited by the BBB which means they meet the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.

Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas
Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to bring in new aid workers to provide assistance quickly. See if the charity’s website clearly describes what the charity can do to address immediate needs.

Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups
Some charities may be raising money to pass along to relief organizations. If so, you may want to consider “avoiding the middleman” and giving directly to those that have a presence in the region. Or, at a minimum, check out the ultimate recipients of these donations to see whether they are equipped to provide aid effectively.

Gifts of clothing, food, or other in-kind donations
In-kind drives for food and clothing, while well intentioned, may not necessarily be the quickest way to help those in need – unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to distribute such aid properly. Ask the charity about its transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance.