Tips for Consumers: Hurricane Charity Warnings

Tips for Consumers
Hurricane Charity Warnings

Hurricane Katrina has caused death and destruction which will take years to overcome. Many of us in the Hagerstown area have decided that we want to help the victims of this disaster in Louisiana, Mississippi, and elsewhere get back on their feet. The desire to help others is one of the great characteristics of the American people.
But unfortunately, dishonest con artists will be trying to swindle you out of your money by claiming they are legitimate charities. They always began with the Internet, but will use every gimmick they can to separate you from your money. Before donating, we at the BBB suggest you follow these tips:
On the Internet: Don't respond to "spam" -unsolicited emails, or messages on Internet bulletin boards. Often the crooks use "phishing" -messages that look exactly like they came from legitimate charities. They link you to a false web site that looks legitimate but allows them to collect your credit card or other personal information.
* Internet crooks frequently forge the identity and style of well-known agencies to gain credibility. They grab "close" URLs such as common typing errors; for example "Red" transposed to Rde or an extra "s" on "Crosss" might connect you to a scammer with a look-alike site. Remember that no bona-fide relief agency requests donations through unsolicited emails.
* One safe way to donate is to call 1-800 HELP NOW (800-435-7669) or go to the Disaster Relief Fund at the real web site, www.redcross.org
Over the Phone: Beware of charity callers with heartwarming stories of how your help is needed but few specifics about what they actually do. Tell them, "I'm sorry but I don't agree to telephone appeals. Please MAIL me details on your group and what you are doing and I'll check you with the Better Business Bureau." Then visit our charity website, www.Give.org
Door-to-Door Collections: Who are these people? Do they have proper identification and professional collection canisters?
Mail Appeals: New charities spring up overnight, promising aid to victims. These groups may have good intentions but lack the means and experience to deliver aid. Many disappear as quickly as they began. Always check them first with the BBB.

Always contact the BBB to check out legitimate businesses. Visit their web site, www.baltimore.bbb.org or give them a call 24 hours a day at 410-347-3992. If you have a complaint, use the web site or write them at: BBB, 1414 Key Highway, #100, Baltimore, MD 21230. Their office serves Hagerstown and all of Washington County.