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Scammers Pursue Profit From Kaua‘i Tragedy

April 19, 2018, 12:36 PM HST
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The heavy rainfall on Kaua‘i that damaged homes, roads and forced the evacuation of hundreds of people has many looking for ways to help those affected.

Unfortunately, scammers may be looking at ways to benefit from this tragedy. Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific is urging donors to give thoughtfully.

The largest online fundraising platform, GoFundMe, a BBB Accredited Business, is monitoring campaigns created around helping the Kaua‘i community. Its GoFundMe Guarantee helps protect donations to make sure funds go to the right place. If funds are misused, they will refund affected donations. To view campaigns created to help those in Kaua‘i, go online.

Consider the following tips for donating safely:

  • Thoughtful Giving Take the time to research the charity to avoid donating to a questionable or poorly managed effort. The first request for a donation may not be the best choice. Be proactive and find trusted charities that are assisting. Visit Give.org to verify if a charity meets the BBB Standards for Charitable Accountability.
  • State Government Registration A charity in Hawai‘i that solicits contributions must register with the Attorney General unless it can prove exemption status. If the charity is not registered, that may be a significant red flag.
  • How Will Donations Will Be Used? Watch out for vague appeals that don’t identify the intended use of funds. For example, how will the donations help victims’ families? Also, unless told otherwise, donors will assume that funds collected quickly in the wake of a tragedy will be spent as quickly. See if the appeal identifies when the collected funds will be used.
  • Online Caution Never click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites or in text messages or email. These may take you to a look-alike website where you will be asked to provide personal financial information or may download harmful malware onto your computer. Don’t assume that charity recommendations on social media have already been vetted.
  • Newly-Created v. Established Organizations This is a personal giving choice, but an established charity will more likely have the experience to quickly address the circumstances and have a track record that can be evaluated. A newly formed organization may be well-meaning but will be difficult to check out and may not be well managed.
  • Tax Deductibility Not all organizations collecting funds are tax exempt as charities under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. In addition, contributions that are donor-restricted to help a specific individual or family are not deductible as charitable donations, even if the recipient organization is a charity.

To get more charity giving tips or to find a BBB Accredited Charity, visit Give.org.

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