Following the tragedy this weekend in Orlando, many across America and the world are wondering how they can help. Forty-nine people were killed and 53 were wounded in what is easily the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
Unfortunately, even in the aftermath of something this horrific, scammers can come out of the woodwork. Whenever tragedy strikes, you see both the best and the worst in people.
You’ll want to do a few things to ensure that your donation goes to help those organizations that are doing good in light of this massacre and making a difference…
Stay safe when giving to the Orlando victims
1. Beware of personal appeals that come to your email seemingly from the family or friends of a victim. ‘This happens after every tragedy and sadly, some people, giving from their heart, don’t stop to think before they click on an email and give their personal financial information,’ CharityNavigator notes.
2. Beware of crowdfunding sites. ‘While these sites provide instant gratification to donors who want to respond quickly, there is little to no vetting happening on these giving platforms, making them a very risky way to donate,’ CharityNavigator writes. ‘The only exception is if you personally know the person behind the appeal for support.’
If you do decide to go this route, Give.org suggests making sure that collected monies are administered by a third party such as a bank, CPA or lawyer.
3. Check for government registration. A majority of states in the U.S. ‘require charities to register with a state government agency (usually a division of the State Attorney General’s office) before they solicit for charitable gifts. If the charity is not registered, that may be a significant red flag,’ according to Give.org.
4. Know how your donations will be used. ‘Watch out for vague appeals that don’t identify the intended use of funds,’ Give.org warns.
5. Be very wary of giving to a charity organization that is brand new. A brand new non-profit could be a scam. Even if it isn’t, they may not have the expertise or reach to have much of an impact.
6. Be cautious online. Lookalike websites can be easily set up that will download harmful malware onto your computer. If you see an organization that you want to give to as you’re surfing around, close your browser and reopen a new one. Then type their URL directly into the browser bar to avoid being misdirected to any phony sites.
‘Don’t assume that charity recommendations on Facebook, blogs or other social media have already been vetted,’ Give.org writes.
7. Understand what’s tax deductible and what’s not. As Give.org points out, ‘Contributions that are donor-restricted to help a specific individual/family are not deductible in the U.S. as charitable donations, even if the recipient organization is a charity.’
In addition, not all organizations collecting funds are tax exempt as charities under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code in the U.S. You may support them if you wish, but know that you won’t be able to take a tax deduction.
EFI says that it is ‘working with a team of attorneys and experts, including the National Center for Victims of Crime . . . to ensure funds are distributed correctly.’
9. Check out our Charity Donation Guide. Anytime you have a question, this resource has great tips for vetting potential charities.