Tips for Donating to Fargo/Moorhead Flood Victims
It is as regular as clockwork. Within days of any disaster, the Better Business Bureau knows that some people will attempt to take advantage of Midwest generosity to assist victims of a tragedy. And the flooding in the Fargo/Moorhead area is no exception.
"Tragedies can reflect both the positive and negative sides of people," said Barb Grieman, interim president of the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota. "Most people are compassionate and eager to give their time and money to help anyone affected, but we also need to caution people about the con artists who will use this opportunity to scam us."
Both consumers and businesses can be at risk for charitable donation schemes. Here are a few tips to keep your donations going to organizations that will help the victims:
· If you are not familiar with the charity, do some research! Visit www.give.org to obtain a report on the charity.
· Ask the solicitor the following questions about the charitable organization:
o How long has it been around?
o Where is it located?
o How much of your donation will go to the actual flood victims? (Don't give to any charity that gives less than 65% to the cause)
o Who exactly will benefit from the donation? And how will they benefit?
· Be wary of appeals that are emotional, but really don't describe exactly what the charity will do with the funds.
· If you contribute, do not give cash.
· If possible, do not contribute over the phone by giving out your credit card or account information. Ask the solicitor to send you literature and a donation form. That way you can donate by check and you will have time to learn more about the organization.
· Be cautious if a solicitor is pressuring you for money. This can be a sign of a con artist. Tell the solicitor that you need time to consider a donation and ask them to send you some literature on the charity. Legitimate charities will be happy to wait for your money. Never give money to a "runner" that is sent to your home to pick up the donation.
· Be alert to charities that have similar names to large, well-known charities.
· If the solicitor comes to your door, do not let them into your home. Instead, talk to them through a locked screen door or a window. Do not answer the door if you feel uncomfortable. If the solicitor says he or she needs you to open your door in order to leave material, tell them to leave it at the doorstep and you will get it later. Then call the charity to make sure the solicitor is authorized to collect donations.
Know the difference between "tax exempt" and "tax deductible." Tax exempt means the organization doesn't have to pay taxes. Tax deductible means you can deduct your contribution on your federal income tax return. Even if an organization is tax exempt, your contribution may not be tax deductible. If a tax deduction is important to you, ask for a receipt showing the amount of your contribution and stating that it is tax deductible.
Scam artists may also offer grants to businesses or people associated with helping the victims of the flooding. Understand that many of these offers are simply looking for your account information. Never accept any grant without contacting the BBB or the police department.
For more information, consumers and businesses can contact the Better Business Bureau at 651-699-1111 or toll-free at 1-800-646-6222 or visit our Web site at www.thefirstbbb.org .
The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota is a private, non-profit organization providing services to consumers and businesses. The focus of the Bureau's activity is to promote an ethical marketplace by encouraging honest advertising and selling practices, and offering dispute resolution.