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The Times
  • BBB tips on donating to Sandy victims

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    In the wake of superstorm Sandy, the Better Business Bureau advises consumers do their research before making any donations to charities assisting those affected by the storm.



     
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    In the wake of superstorm Sandy, the Better Business Bureau advises consumers do their research before making any donations to charities assisting those affected by the storm.
    "When we experience natural disasters, people are eager to help out in any way they can; unfortunately, some phony charities prey on situations like this," said Steve J Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. "That is why we urge every consumer to do their research before making any kind of charitable donations."
    The BBB offers the following tips to help donors decide where to direct donations to assist hurricane victims:
    - Be cautious when giving online. Especially be cautious in response to unsolicited spam messages, and emails or 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. Donors can go to www.bbb.org for free to research charities and relief organizations and verify that they are accredited by the BBB.
    - Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims. Despite what an organization might claim, charities have fundraising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee.
    - 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 give 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.
    Never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown charity. For more tips, visit www.bbb.org.
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