Sunday’s anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks is sure to evoke memories, emotion and, for some, philanthropy. The BBB wants to remind people that scammers may take advantage of the anniversary, and that donors should carefully research a charity before they give.
A recent Associated Press investigation found that many 9/11 charities “failed miserably” in serving victims, their families and their memories, yet continue to collect donations. This past week, the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs warned that a scammer was calling residents in Northeast Wisconsin fraudulently soliciting donations for a veterans’ clinic in Green Bay.
Unfortunately, there are good charities and bad charities, and some that call themselves charities that are flat-out scams. The BBB wants people to give with their hearts, but use their heads.
Before giving to a charity, the Wisconsin BBB warns consumers to:
- Ask questions about why the charity still needs to collect 9/11 related money. What ongoing purposes are they serving that flow from the events of 9/11? You can request written details from the charity about what it does with the donations.
- Check out the charity before donating at www.bbb.org. The BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance reviews charities, much like a BBB Business Review, and lets donors know whether or not the charity meets WGA’s 20 standards for charitable accountability, which address things like the charity's governance, effectiveness, finances and charitable solicitations.
- Always donate using a check. Requests for cash-only, wire transfer or donations picked up by a courier should be seen as a red flag.
- Don’t give over the phone or by clicking on a link inside an emailed solicitation. Either donate to the organization in person, by mail (only sending to a verified and trusted address) or on the charity’s secure and trusted Website.
- Beware of charities that use names or similar sounding names of well-known organizations. Scammers will try to confuse you by using names of trusted organizations.
- Refuse high-pressure appeals. If the organization is legitimate, it can wait for your donation until after you’ve had a chance to fully research it.
- Check with the IRS at www.irs.gov/app/pub-78/ to verify the organization’s tax exempt status, and make sure the organization has all proper registration and licensing. In Wisconsin, charities must be regulated through the state’s Department of Regulation & Licensing and the Wisconsin Attorney General’s office.