In the wake of Hurricanes Ian and Fiona, people want to make sure their donations end up in the right place.
“As despicable as it is, there are characters in our society who choose to capitalize on the unfortune [SIC] of others,” said Rick Copelan, President of the Tri-Counties Better Business Bureau.
Some donors have come across scams posing as legitimate relief agencies and charities.
“They'll ask for things like gift cards. Wire transfers is a big one,” Copelan said.
Scott Jalbert is the Emergency Services Manager for the County of San Luis Obispo and he explained, “If you are receiving a lot of pressure from someone wanting you to donate, that's always a red flag. You can always look up the charity on the internet. Some good sources for that would be a Charity Navigator or a Charity Watch and even the IRS."
A good rule to follow is to support the big names, including the American Red Cross or the Salvation Army.
“So most of the legit organizations that do disaster relief have very strict guidelines that they follow. And, you know, obviously, there's always some overhead costs that go along with that. But the majority of the money does go to the care and shelter in like cases,” Jalbert added.
An example he gave included the American Red Cross, which has a charter to take care of shelters in large disasters.
“You should not be surprised to get a request for a donation from an illegitimate charity,” Copelan said.
The Better Business Bureau has a list of legitimate charities and over 20 standards for the organizations they add.
“And it's not just a matter of answering questions on a questionnaire. We ask for documentation, you know, 1099 tax returns, you know, all of these kinds of things,” Copelan clarified.
Jalbert told KSBY that people often want to donate supplies or used clothing and household goods after disasters. But he encourages donors to check with the charity ahead of time to make sure they're equipped to handle those types of donations.