HELENA — Many Montanans are all too familiar with just how devastating wildfires can be.
Better Business Bureau (BBB) Montana Marketplace Manager Hannah Stiff says many people are looking to help those affected by the Australian wildfires but cautions about rushing to make donations.
“The wonderful thing about Montanans is they’re a very generous bunch of people,” said Stiff. “We just want to remind folks anytime you’re giving, especially to something that is breaking news or breaking disaster situation, you need to just take a minute and do a little bit of research.”
“Unfortunately, there are people who would be out there to take your money and they never have any intent to give it to victims of those fires,” she added.
Stiff says there are some easy steps people can take to make sure their money is going to actual organizations helping those affected by the fires.
The BBB Wise Giving Alliance give.org helps donors make informed giving decisions and monitors charities and relief organizations. People can use the site to verify any site or organization they may be considering to donate to, and see where those funds are being spent.
“We evaluate theme through rigorous standards to make sure they’re using donor money well, said Stiff. “We also advise folks to do extra research and make sure the site or link they got isn’t a sham charity that’s pretending to be a well-respected organization.”
Stiff says people should also be wary of crowdfunding since they can be used to create a fictitious story about someone in need.
“People can rip images from news sources and social media with no intent of giving that money to disaster victims,” said Stiff. “Be really wary. Even your well-meaning uncle or aunt might not know that the page they’re sharing isn’t genuine.”
More advice about ways to avoid disaster charity scams can be found here.