When helping tornado victims, don't become a victim yourself

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Reporter - Elizabeth Fields
Photojournalist - Mason Watkins

PADUCAH, Ky. - With the total of tornado damage now topping $1 billion, the people in Oklahoma are clearly in desperate need. While most Americans see an opportunity to help, there are a few that see an opportunity to cash in. That's why the Better Business Bureau is warning anyone donating to the cause to do their research.

 

“After every natural disaster and man made catastrophe, we see an outpouring of generosity, along with the inevitable scams and frauds,” said Art Taylor, president and CEO of the BBB 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.”

 

 

The following are tips from the BBB Wise Giving Alliance to help donors decide where to direct donations to assist victims:

Be cautious when giving online. Be cautious about online giving, especially in response to unsolicited spam messages, and emails and social media posts 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. In response to hurricanes Katrina and, Rita, and the Asian tsunamis, the FBI and others raised concerns about websites and new organizations that were created overnight, allegedly to help victims.

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 www.bbb.org/charity to research charities and relief organizations and verify that they are accredited by the BBB and meet the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.

Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims. Despite what an organization might claim, charities have fund raising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee. If a charity claims 100 percent of collected funds will be assisting disaster victims, the truth is that the organization is still probably incurring fund raising and administrative expenses. It may use some of its other funds to pay these costs, but the expenses will still be incurred.

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.helps family and friends stay in touch during a disaster, and assists in donations to qualified relief organizations. The HelpBridge app is free and available on iOS, Android and Windows.

McCracken County Sheriff Jon Hayden told WPSD he encourages people in our area to ask how their money will specifically help and give instructions if they want it spent in a certain way.

As of Wednesday night, there were no confirmed complaints to the Oklahoma BBB about fake charities, but officials say they expect them to start popping up soon.

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