Better Business Bureau Cautions Consumers to Watch for Scammers in Wake of Boston Bombings

ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Below is a release from the Better Business Bureau reminding citizens to be on alert concerning scammers in the wake of the bombings at the Boston Marathon.

Release from the Better Business Bureau:

One poorly conceived scam has already emerged in the wake of the explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon yesterday, with that in mind it’s important to watch out for scams. The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois (BBB) is alerting consumers of the possibility of more phony charity solicitations, supposedly on behalf of the families of victims of the Boston Marathon tragedy.
“Tragedies often inspire people to give,” said Dennis Horton, director of the Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau. “Unfortunately, tragedies also inspire scammers to take advantage of people’s generosity. Give wisely by checking on the organization before donating and make sure that your gift is being used for its intended purpose by a trustworthy charity.”

The BBB recommends asking the following questions before choosing to donate to a specific charity:

Is this a charity I can trust?
Look at the appeal carefully; some charities have similar sounding names. Don't be fooled by names that look impressive or that closely resemble the name of a well-known organization. Check with your appropriate state government authorities (this is usually a division of the state’s office of the attorney general) to verify the charity is registered to solicit in your state. Also, visit the website of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance (www.bbb.org/charity) to find out whether a national charity meets the 20 BBB charity standards that address charity governance, finances, fund raising, donor privacy, and other accountability issues.

How will the charity use my donation?
Ask questions about how your donation will be used. Beware of appeals that bring tears to your eyes but tell you little about what the charity is doing about the problem it describes so well. For example, if the charity says it’s helping the homeless, do they explain how (shelter, food, medical care) and where this is taking place?
Watch out for statements such as "all proceeds will go to the charity." This can mean that only the money left after expenses, such as the cost of written materials and fund raising efforts, will go to the charity. These expenses can sometimes be high, so check carefully.

Is my donation tax deductible?
If you want to take a charitable deduction for federal income tax purposes, make sure the organization is tax exempt as a charity under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. A charity appeal will usually include a reference to this. To verify a charity’s tax status, access an IRS database of organizations by viewing Publication 78 on the IRS website at www.irs.gov. Consult your tax advisor for details.
Can the charity actually use what I’m donating? All charities welcome the receipt of monetary donations, but some also solicit in-kind donations such as clothing, food, and toys. If you’re planning to donate items to a worthy cause, make sure you know the in-kind contributions your charity prefers. For example, a food bank may prefer food items that are not perishable such as canned goods, and a toy drive may be seeking new and not used toys.

Am I feeling pressured to give?
Don't succumb to pressure to give money on the spot, either immediately over the phone via credit card or by allowing a "runner" to pick up a contribution. Take the time to research the charity fully; the charity that needs your money today will welcome it just as much tomorrow.

The BBB has provided some additional tips in this time of need:

The BBB is asking anyone who receives a suspicious charitable solicitation to report it to BBB Report a Scam.

The FBI has the lead investigative role following the bombing. Anyone who has information, visual images and/or details regarding the explosions should call 1-800-CALL-FBI (800-225-5324), prompt #3. The FBI says no piece of information or detail is too small.

The American Red Cross says it has enough blood and financial resources committed to Boston at this time, but asks that people make appointments to give blood in the weeks and months ahead.

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino offers the Mayor’s 24-Hour Hotline at 617-635-4500 for anyone with concerns about their family members or friends who were at the race.

For more advice on giving and to view reports on charities visit www.bbb.org/charity.


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