Better Business Bureau: Online scammers

ST. LOUIS_ Online crowdfunding is becoming more common these days. But can you tell scammers from the real thing?

Better Business Bureau Investigator Don O’Brien tells us what we need to know.

Online crowdfunding platforms have made donating to good causes more popular, easy, and efficient than ever before. At the click of a button, you can fund charitable projects and events, or give aid to those in need of emergency financial assistance.

Unfortunately, scammers are not above using crowdfunding platforms to spread lies and trick well-meaning donors into giving money based on false pretenses.

Although there are unscrupulous individuals who seek to exploit your kindness, BBB provides resources to help protect your interests. Before supporting a charitable causes or individuals via a crowdfunding campaign, be sure to check it out on bbb.org.

BBB Charity Reviews let donors know whether a charity has complied with BBB Standards for Charity Accountability, 20 standards designed to show that a charity is transparent about its operations and fundraising and that it follows good governance practices.

Charities that meet standards qualify as BBB Accredited Charities.

BBB has more than 11,000 Charity Reviews, covering local as well as national nonprofit organizations. A list of local veterans charities that are BBB Accredited is available at this link.

BBB offers the following tips to potential crowdfunding platform donors:

•Learn all you can about a charity or an individual making the solicitation before contributing. Ask the charity for printed documentation on how much of your contribution will be used for program services and how much will go for fundraising and management expenses. If it`s an individual asking for help, ask what assurance you have that the victim or victims will actually receive the monies.
•Watch out for appeals that bring tears to your eyes, but tell you nothing about how your donation will be used.
•Since many fake campaigns involve ‘borrowing’ photos and creating stories around them, your first line of defense against a crowdfunding scam is a reverse image search. Cross check any photos used in the campaign, as well as any related photos you may have found on the campaign organizer`s social media pages.
•Remember that donations made to anything other than a 501 (c) (3) designated organization will likely not be tax deductible.
•Scammers often put up several different campaigns across several platforms just to increase the odds of tricking people into donating.
•Before making online donations, determine whether the charity`s website is secure and that it has a privacy policy concerning the use of your name, email address or other personal facts. (The address on the page where donations are collected should begin with https://.)
•Check with the BBB for a BBB Charity Review. For a charity to receive BBB accreditation, it must meet all Standards for Charity Accountability covering everything from governance to fundraising.

Before you do business with a charity or company, check it out at bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.

Give but give wisely.