BBB cautions donors after Oklahoma tornadoes - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

BBB cautions donors after Oklahoma tornadoes

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West Virginians know what donations to the Red Cross, Salvation Army and other relief organizations can mean. After all, the Mountain State has experienced its share of natural disasters.

Now many West Virginians are returning the favor by donating to these organizations to help victims of this week's tornadoes in Oklahoma and Texas. But the Better Business Bureau is cautioning individuals and businesses to look for scams that often pop up when these natural disasters strike.

The BBB issued a news release Mary 22, offering tips to help donors make sound decisions and avoid these scams.

"After every natural disaster and manmade catastrophes, we see an outpouring of generosity, along with the inevitable scams and frauds," said Art Taylor, president and CEO of BBB's Wise Giving Alliance. "We urge donors to take the time to make sure their donations are going to legitimate charities that can do the most good for those in need."

BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers the following tips to donors:

 

  • Be cautious when giving donations online, especially in response to unsolicited spam messages, as well as emails and social media posts that claim to link to a relief organization. Donors who want to donate online are encouraged to go directly to that relief organization'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 advertise, the BBB says. Donors can go to www.bbb.org/charity to research charities and relief organizations to ensure they are accredited by the BBB and meet the 20 standards for charity accountability established by the BBB.
  • Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims. Charities have administrative and overhead costs, according to the news release. If a charity claims 100 percent of collected funds will go to disaster victims, the organization is still probably incurring fund raising and administrative expenses. It may use other funds to pay these costs, but the expenses still will be incurred.
  • Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the affected area. Unless the charity already has staff in place in these areas, it may be difficult to bring in new aid workers to quickly provide assistance. The BBB suggests donors visit the charity's website to determine what the charity is doing to provide immediate assistance.
  • Be cautious of drives for food, clothing or other in-kind donations. Such drives may be well-intentioned, but not necessarily the best or quickest way to help those in need, unless the charity has staff and infrastructure in place to distribute this aid properly. Ask the charity about the transportation and distribution plans. Be weary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance, the BBB warns.

 

The Salvation Army echoed many of the comments made in the BBB news release. According to Jessica Eads with the Salvation Army, donors should give cash if possible because it's easier to distribute.

"Donors are encouraged to contribute cash," she said. "In-kind donations require sorting, boxing, palletizing, storage, and delivery to the disaster location. All of these activities can be costly and time consuming, and therefore may delay service delivery.

"Cash donations allow The Salvation Army to purchase product to quickly and efficiently meet the most urgent needs of disaster victims.  When possible, the purchases are made near the disaster site to stimulate the local economy and ensure quicker delivery."

Both The Salvation Army and the Red Cross accept cash donations via text message. To donate to The Salvation Army, text "storm" to 80888, then respond to the reply message with the word "yes" to accept charges. To donate via text to the Red Cross, text "redcross" to 90999.

The Salvation Army also accepts donations through the mail. They encourage donors to mail checks payable to The Salvation Army, with "May 2013 Oklahoma Tornadoes" in the memo line to:

The Salvation Army--Disaster Relief

PO Box 2536

Oklahoma City, Okla., 73102

Also, the Red Cross discourages in-kind donations, suggesting monetary donations are the better way to go.

According to the Red Cross website: "The best way to help a disaster victim is through a financial donation to the Red Cross. Financial contributions allow the Red Cross to purchase exactly what is needed for the disaster relief operation. Monetary donations also enable the Red Cross to purchase relief supplies close to the disaster site which avoids delays and transportation costs in getting basic necessities to disaster victims. Because the affected area has generally experienced significant economic loss, purchasing relief supplies in or close to the disaster site also helps to stimulate the weakened local economy."

Susan Shew, major gifts officer for the American Red Cross West Virginia Region, pointed out the Federal Trade Commission also has established guidelines for donors. The agency suggests donors should avoid fundraisers or chair ties that:

·         refuses to provide written information about its identity, its mission, its costs and how the donation will be used;

·         will not provide proof that a contribution is tax deductible;

·         uses a name that closely resembles that of a better-known, reputable organization;

·         thanks a potential donor for a pledge the person doesn't remember making;

·         asks a potential contributor for bank account or credit card information before the person has reviewed the organization's information and agreed to contribute;

·         uses high-pressure tactics to secure a donation before the potential donor has had a chance to make an informed decision about giving;

·         asks for donations in cash;

·         offers to send a courier or overnight delivery service to collect the donation immediately.