Better Business Bureau is warning consumers about a variety of Ebola-related scams and problematic fundraisers that have emerged recently. BBB Wise Giving Alliance is working with BBB Serving Dallas and Northeast Texas, where the first victim died and two nurses became infected; BBB Serving Greater Cleveland, where one of the nurses traveled before getting sick; and several other local BBBs to investigate some of the Ebola-related efforts.
A fundraising page on GoFundMe was created on Wednesday to raise donations for Amber Joy Vinson, the nurse who traveled from Dallas to Cleveland and is currently being treated in Atlanta for Ebola. The site may behave been the work of a well-intentioned individual, but members of Vinson’s family tell BBB they did not authorize the effort. Although that page has since been shut down, there are more than 100 GoFundMe pages raising money for various Ebola campaigns.
Several BBBs have also reported on phone solicitation from an organization supposedly raising money to help with Ebola. When pressed, the caller says he is from a famous charity’s chapter in the Bronx, New York. BBB Metro New York confirmed that no such branch exists and that the solicitation is likely a scam.
BBB warns donors to carefully research any charitable efforts – especially those that surface following an event that gains media attention.
- Check out charities at give.org, the charity reporting arm of BBB.
- Confirm that the group is actually a charity; charitable organizations that have received tax-exempt status provide more opportunities for verification.
- Give to individuals you know. It is safest to give to those individuals you personally know who are contacting you to support their specific project.
- Projects that share updates provide greater transparency. Updates from a project’s organizers help to ensure they’re being honest about the uses of raised money.
- Don’t assume your donation or gift is tax deductible. If you are funding a project run by an individual instead of a charity, the funding you provide may not be deductible as a charitable gift for federal income tax purposes.
- Be especially careful after a disaster or tragedy. Con artists will strike while the emotional iron is hot.
- Read the fine print. There could be credit card fees and administrative costs associated with donating.
- Specialized crowdfunding sites may be more adept. A site that allows any type of crowdfunding may result in more challenging oversight hurdles.
For additional assistance on charitable giving issues, visit the BBB Wise Giving Alliance website at give.org.