Watch out for fraudulent “Frankenstorm” donation pleas, BBB warns

“Frankenstorm” Sandy smashed the East Coast Monday, causing flooding and loss of power for millions. Natural disasters can bring out the best in people, as strangers reach out to help those in need. Unfortunately, they can also bring out those looking to take advantage of the situation. Better Business Bureau is reminding consumers to do their research before donating to relief efforts.

When looking to donate to a charity, BBB suggests consumers check with the IRS to ensure the organization is recognized as a 501(c)(3); get a better understanding of how their donation will be used; and choose an organization that has experience in the specific type of relief efforts they are claiming to undertake.

Additionally, consumers can use to help make a more informed giving decision. There, consumers can view a national charity’s financial information and get additional details about the organization.

When giving to a charity, BBB warns consumers to watch for these red flags:

· Lack of information. Someone soliciting for a charity should know details about the organization. Examples include: the percentage of money that actually goes toward the cause; how long the charity has been doing business; and the charity’s full name, address and telephone number. Be wary of solicitors who cannot or will not answer your questions.

· High-pressure sales. Charities are consistently in need of support. If a solicitor pressures you to donate immediately without allowing you time to research the organization, reconsider your donation.

· Insistence on cash donations. Don’t be forced into making a cash donation. You should be able to donate using a credit card or check, and get a receipt for your donation. However, you should never provide your credit card information to an unsolicited caller.

· Prizes. Some callers will insist you won a prize in a contest you never entered, and then solicit a donation. Such calls are almost always a scam.

· Similar names. Many scammers try to add legitimacy by using a name that is very close to a well-known and well-respected charity. Check the name closely and make sure you are giving to the charity for which you actually intend to help.