Beware scams for aid to Texas

Staff reports
Chronicle Express

BBB offers advice on helping areas in winter weather crisis

As Texas and other parts of the country have been hit with snow and bitterly cold weather, millions have lost power, heat, and/or water. Many people are looking for ways to help those in need. Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York encourages people to visit Give.org to verify if the charity chosen meets the BBB Standards for Charity Accountability.

Think before you click

Before you blindly click on a link that someone sent you in a text or on social media, consider making a cash donation through the charity’s own website. In an emergency situation, this is likely the fastest way of sending help. In-kind donations of supplies may be well-intended but can sometimes be difficult and costly to manage if the charity does not already have an established means to help distribute them to those in need.

Crowdfunding

As with most disasters, there are already crowdfunding campaigns being set up for those in need on sites like GoFundMe. While some may be drawn to providing direct assistance to individuals, BBB offers the following tips:

• Give to people and organizations you know. It is safest to give to crowdfunding postings of people you personally know. If that is not possible, consider a posting that is being managed by an established charitable organization that can be checked out.

• Not all crowdfunding sites operate alike. Some crowdfunding platforms do a better job of vetting postings and projects that appear on their site than others. Review the site’s description of its procedures. If they do take precautions, they generally announce that fact loudly to help encourage giving.

• See if the posting describes how funds will be used. Vague descriptions of how the collected funds will be used should also be a yellow caution light. Thoughtful collections will take the added step of identifying and verifying needs before any money is raised.

• Don’t assume pictures represent an official connection to the person or family identified. Unfortunately, some crowdfunding postings may be using pictures of needy individuals without their permission. As a result, you can’t assume an official connection. Again, each site has different rules on what they allow.

• Your contribution may not be deductible as a charitable gift. If a crowdfunding posting is claiming to be helping a specific named individual or family, donors in the U.S. generally cannot take a federal income tax deduction, even if the individual or family is in need.

Charities helping in Texas

AMERICAN RED CROSS (a BBB Accredited Charity) is providing assistance across multiple states. The Red Cross states that in a number of areas it is also providing cots, blankets, water, and ready-to-eat meals when requested. For more information, click here.

SALVATION ARMY (the national office is a BBB Accredited Charity) set up warming centers in some areas. Check with local affiliates for additional information about specific assistance available in a particular community.

FEEDING AMERICA (a BBB Accredited Charity) is active in providing groceries to those in need. Visit https://www.feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank for a directory of food banks.

For more information, visit Give.org. To report a scam, visit BBB.org/scamtracker.