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BBB alert: Be careful about hurricane charities

CHARLOTTE ó Many Americans will want to help the Gulf Coast victims displaced by Hurricane Ike or other recent storms. The easiest and most common way that people can help is by making donations to relief agencies and charities that are experienced at working with disaster victims.
However, as with every natural disaster, there are unscrupulous people who will attempt to take advantage of your generosity. “In the face of any disaster, Americans will immediately make donations to help the victims,” said Tom Bartholomy, President & CEO of The Better Business Bureau of Southern Piedmont in Charlotte. “Unfortunately, as we saw after Hurricane Katrina, scammers will try to take advantage of generous donors.”
The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance offers the following advice to make sure your donations go to worthy charities and relief efforts:
– Before making a contribution, go to www.bbb.org/charity to obtain detailed reports on relief organizations and charities.
– If giving by telephone or online, you should initiate the contact with the charity. When you call the charity directly or go to their secure website, you know what organization you are contacting. However, if you respond to an email donation request or a telephone solicitation, you do not know who is actually contacting you.
– Keep an eye out for fake charities that imitate the names of well-known organizations in order to confuse donors.
– Do not give your credit card number or other personal information to a telephone solicitor or in response to an e-mail solicitation.
– Do not give cash or send money via wire transfer. Give by credit card, check or money order. Checks or money orders should be made out to the name of the charitable organization, not to the individual collecting the donation.
– Do not feel pressured to make a contribution on the spot, especially if they offer to send a “runner” to pick up your contribution in person.
– Be wary of charities that are reluctant to answer reasonable questions about their operations, finances and programs.
– Do not hesitate to ask for written information that describes the charity’s programs and finances such as the charity’s latest annual report and financial statements.
– Find out what the charity intends to do with any excess contributions remaining after they have fully funded the disaster relief activities mentioned in solicitations.
– Think twice about donating to any charity that is inexperienced in carrying out relief efforts, but is soliciting for hurricane relief. Although well intentioned, such organizations may not have the ability to quickly deliver aid to those in need.
– Be wary of appeals that are long on emotion, but short on describing what the charity will do to address the needs of victims.
– To ensure your contribution is tax deductible, donations should be made to charitable organizations that are tax exempt, 501(c)(3) charities.
For more information on the BBB Wise Giving Alliance and to view more than one thousand BBB Wise Giving Reports on charities across the nation, please visit www.give.org.
If you have questions, please do not hesitate to call your local Better Business Bureau at 1-877-317-7236 toll-free in North and South Carolina.

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