April 28, 2015
by: Colleen Tressler
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC.
The devastation caused by a massive earthquake in Nepal and the Katmandu Valley region has left many people asking how they can help.
If you’re looking for a way to give, the Federal Trade Commission urges you to do some research to ensure that your donation will go to a reputable organization that will use the money as promised.
Urgent appeals for aid that you get in person, by phone or mail, by e-mail, on websites, or on social networking sites may not be on the up-and-up. Unfortunately, legitimate charities face competition from fraudsters who either solicit for bogus charities or aren’t entirely honest about how a so-called charity will use your contribution.
If you’re asked to make a charitable donation, consider these tips:
- Donate to charities you know and trust. You want to find a charity with a proven track record with dealing with disasters.
- Be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight in connection with current events. “Look alike” websites resembling legitimate charitable organizations and international aid efforts may be popping up. Check out the charity with the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.
- Designate the disaster. Charities may give the option to designate your giving to a specific disaster. That way, you can ensure your funds are going to disaster relief, rather than a general fund.
- Never click on links or open attachments in e-mails unless you know who sent it and what it is. Opening attachments — even in e-mails that seem to be from friends or family — can install malware on your computer.
- Don’t assume that charity messages posted on social media are legitimate or have been vetted. Research the charitable organization yourself.
- When texting to donate, first confirm the number with the source. The charge will show up on your mobile phone bill, but be aware that text donations are not immediate. Depending on the text message service used by the charity, it can take as much as 90 days for the charity to receive the funds.
- Find out if the charity or fundraiser must be registered in your state by contacting the National Association of State Charity Officials.
For more on the questions to ask and for a list of groups that can help you research a charity, go to Charity Scams.