WICHITA, Kan. - The Better Business Bureau encourages giving, but giving wisely this holiday season. Here are some warnings from the BBB to keep in mind as you give.
1. Look out for fake websites. Scammers are looking to take advantage of your generosity. Thieves will create websites that may look like an organization's page, but may have slight differences. Check the name and URL of the website to ensure it's the correct page. "These scammers know using names that are similar to well-known, trustworthy charities is an easy way for somebody to make a simple mistake and go ahead and donate to them as opposed to the charity they thought they were donating to," says Denise Groene, State Director of the BBB.
2. Do not donate over the phone. Scammers will also call you for "donations". The BBB recommends you do not donate over the phone. If someone calls you asking for donations, ask for a website. Check out the website and make sure it's legit before you pull out your credit card.
3. Ask for information. If you are wary of a charity, or someone claiming to be with a charity, ask about the financial information, where the money goes and the programs and services offered. Nonprofits with 501(c)(3) status are required to disclose that information. The BBB says you should be cautious of any organization that is not willing to share that information with you.
4. Be wary of emotional appeals. Although it is "Giving Tuesday", you do not have to donate today. If you see a new organization that you are interested in supporting, do not feel pressured to donate right away. The BBB advises you take time to research the charity to make sure it aligns with your values.
5. Don't donate items unless you know the charity needs those specific items. Charities most commonly need money. The BBB says if you don't want to give money, check directly with the organization for other ways to help out. "If you feel more comfortable donating an item, look to see what sort of items they are in need of as opposed to just randomly buying something and that non-profit may not even have any use for that," Grone says.
6. Know which donations are tax deductible. Only donations made to 501(c)(3) non-profits are tax deductible. Donations to crowdfunding websites, such as GoFundMe, are not tax-deductible. Third-party sites often take a cut of the donations. If someone wants to raise money for an organization, it's best to encourage giving directly to the charity, not through a third-party fundraiser.
7. Look carefully at Facebook fundraisers. Facebook's fundraisers allow users to raise money for themselves or on behalf of someone else. If the user claims the fundraiser is for an organization, make sure the organization is linked to the fundraiser. Facebook donates the funds directly to the charity. If there is no charity linked, the money goes to the user. The BBB says people make mistakes, and may not correctly set up the fundraiser. It's up to you to make sure your donation is going where you want it. "Just be cautious as you're clicking through those links. Make sure you're on the right landing page of that organization. It may even be best just to go to their website so you know you're giving to the right organization," Groene says.
8. Know where the donated money goes. The BBB has a Wise Giving Guide available at give.org. It reviews charities under 20 standards. "One of the key things we're doing is looking for accountability, responsibility, we're making sure the money coming in is going back to the programs and services they say they are," Groene says.