BBB advises caution when donating to help Central Texas flood victims

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Central Texas and other areas experienced devastating floods over the Memorial Day weekend. The disaster took lives and destroyed a tremendous amount of property.

There are plenty of good-hearted people who want to help. Unfortunately, there are also bad actors out there who could potentially steal donations intended for victims.

Better Business Bureau serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin advises consumers to donate to charities listed with BBB Wise Giving Alliance. American Red Cross is an Accredited Charity with WGA and accepting donations at www.Redcross.org/charitable-donations.

Tips for giving with confidence:

  • Thoughtful Giving.Take the time to check out the charity to avoid wasting your generosity by donating to a questionable or poorly managed effort.
  • Help spread the Wise Giving Word. Remind your friends and family to be cautious about giving requests in the wake of such a tragedy and ask them to spread the word as well.
  • What if a Family Sets Up Its Own Assistance Fund? Some families may set up their own assistance funds. Such funds may not be set up as charities. Also, make sure that collected monies are received and administered by a third party such as a bank, CPA or lawyer. This will help provide oversight and ensure the collected funds are used appropriately (e.g., paying for funeral costs, counseling and other tragedy-related needs.)
  • Online Cautions. Never click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites or in text messages or emails. These may take you to a lookalike website where you will be asked to provide personal financial information or to click on something that downloads harmful malware into your computer. Don’t assume that charity recommendations on Facebook, blogs or other social media have already been vetted.
  • Financial Transparency. After funds are raised for a tragedy, it is even more important for organizations to provide an accounting of how funds were spent. Transparent organizations will post this information on their websites so that anyone can find out and not have to wait until the audited financial statements are available sometime in the future.
  • Newly Created or Established Organizations. This is a personal giving choice, but an established charity will more likely have the experience to quickly address the circumstances and have a track record that can be evaluated. A newly formed organization may be well-meaning, but will be difficult to check out and may not be well-managed.
  • Tax Deductibility. Not all organizations collecting funds to assist this tragedy are tax exempt as charities under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Donors can support these other entities, but keep this in mind if they want to take a deduction for federal income tax purposes. In addition, contributions that are donor-restricted to help a specific individual/family are not deductible as charitable donations, even if the recipient organization is a charity.

Disasters like the recent floods can also bring out scam artists who target the victims themselves, especially as people clean up homes with water damage. BBB has the following advice for people dealing with water damage.

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