Hello. I’m Reghan Winkler, the new secretary general of the local Better Business Bureau. In the last column, my predecessor, Cheryl Person, announced his retirement. I continue its tradition of keeping readers informed of the latest scams and business trends and practices.
The Better Business Bureau has long warned that con artists love trouble. Scammers know that people tend to get anxious and to protect themselves or help others who may be in danger or in pain.
Americans quickly help those exposed to violence, natural disasters, and oppression. Sadly, the last two weeks of radio waves have been inundated with information about the collapse of Afghanistan and the ensuing unrest. We are overwhelmed by the image of enthusiastic American citizens and Afghans leaving the country. There is a tragedy of a desperate mother pushing her children against the barbed wire wall. We sympathize with them, sympathize with them, and seek ways to help, no matter the size of our contributions.
The crooks have already taken the plunge to take advantage of this dire situation and have created fake accounts on crowdfunding sites, fake charities and other fake donation campaigns. There are also email and social media petitions from criminals claiming to be stranded in Afghanistan under the guise of soldiers without access to their money.
All of these scenarios are designed to steal well-meaning money.
As with most humanitarian crises, there are well-established organizations dealing with affected areas, relying on coveted supplies and funds donated for relief efforts.
So how do you avoid contributing to fraud and organizations that may mismanage your donations? Consider the following tips.
• Before sending money, research organizations and individuals who are considering donating. Make sure it is an established organization with solid rescue experience. If you can’t find information about a nonprofit or individual before the event happens, consider this a huge red flag.
• Crowdfunding sources such as GoFundMe are a great way to send money directly to victims. However, keep in mind that it is very difficult for these funders to know for sure that donations are being made to anyone who claims their account is set up to help. If you donate this way, be very careful.
• Contact a rating site such as BBB or Charity Navigator to see if the charity you are considering is credible. These organizations are dedicated to the evaluation of non-profit organizations. They compile information on highly rated nonprofits that are currently dealing with “hot topics” such as the situation in Afghanistan.
• Do an IRS Tax Exemption Organization Research (https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/tax-exempt-organization-search) to make sure that the organization you are trying to give is registered with the IRS and donate. Make sure. They have tax deductions.
• Look carefully for the web address. Scammers often set up bogus websites with slightly different versions of the names of well-known and trusted organizations, in hopes of luring people into sending money to the wrong place.
• You may also consider donating to Americares, GlobalGiving Foundation, Save The Children, or other charities approved and accredited by the BBB. A list of charities is available at https://charityreports.bbb.org/public/accredited.aspx?bureauID=9999.
If you have any questions, please call the nearest BBB office (419-223-7010). We are waiting to receive you.
Reghan Winkler is the executive director of the Better Business Bureau, which serves Midwestern Ohio. BBB can be found on the Internet bbb.org/us/oh/lima..