Homes lay in ruins one week after Hurricane Dorian hit The Mudd neighborhood, in the Marsh Harbor area of Abaco, Bahamas, Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Watch for scams when donating to Hurricane Dorian relief, group warns

More than 140 new crowdfunding campaigns related to the storm are already established

With more than 140 new charities using online crowdfunding to support victims of Hurricane Dorian, the Better Business Bureau is encouraging donors to be cautious.

In a news release on Tuesday, the bureau encouraged people to support experienced disaster relief organizations that clearly outline and can show proof of its activities and initiatives.

“Images of devastation may prompt many British Columbians, especially those with family and friends in the affected areas, to find avenues to help,” said spokesperson Karla Davis.

“Not all organizations that claim they are going to aid in relief efforts are verified, and this recent tragedy may also inspire scammers to take advantage of people’s goodwill and generosity.”

READ MORE: Man fundraising to bring Bahamian victims of Hurricane Dorian to Kelowna

The agency shared the following tips:

Verify the trustworthiness of the organization. Donors should watch out for newly created organizations that are either inexperienced at addressing disasters or may try to deceive donors at a vulnerable time.

Make sure you are donating to a registered charity by asking for the registration number and checking for it here.

See if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the affected areas. It may be difficult to provide help quickly and effectively if they don’t. Its website should clearly describe what it can do to address immediate and longer-term needs.

Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups. If the latter, you may want to consider “avoiding the middleman” and give directly to those groups in the region.

READ MORE: ‘Bikinishe’ swimwear retailer prompts Better Business Bureau warning

Be cautious about gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations, as they may not be the quickest way to help if the organization has the staff and infrastructure to handle it. Donated goods may impose extra costs on a charity to cover storage and distribution. Ask the charity about its transportation and distribution plans.

Understand crowdfunding. While resources such as the Better Business Bureau’s give.org help vet charities, it can be tough to vet individuals. Some such posts claim to raise funds to deliver and distribute items to impacted areas. Such efforts may risk lives, complicate professional efforts and potentially divert donations that could be directed in more helpful ways. Check the terms and conditions of the crowdfunding platform.

READ MORE: ‘Catastrophic’: Hurricane Dorian parks over the Bahamas

Donors should also remember the emergency phase of a disaster is often just the beginning.

“Full recovery will be a long-term effort that can take many months or years to accomplish, depending on the extent of the damage,” the release said. “Take your time to choose the right charity to help at the right time.”

If you suspect a scam or that you are a victim, report it on BBB Scam Tracker and to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

READ MORE: Trudeau, ministers to visit Halifax and survey Dorian recovery efforts



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