Whether it’s out of sheer empathy for people or animals less fortunate, or if you have a personal connection, bless you and thank you for your care. However, the sad reality is that plenty of criminals take advantage of life’s tragedies and will scam you out of money.
Here are some important guidelines offered by Beth Gazley, professor of Public and Environmental Affairs, O’Neill School, Indiana University on https://theconversation.com/how-to-responsibly-donate-to-ukrainian-causes-178391 She suggests checking out organizations geared to support the people of Ukraine.
- Send money to organizations, not individuals. When the author searched GoFundMe sites to help in Ukraine, she found 1,008 different campaigns. Many by individuals so it’s likely some will be scams.
- Learn about groups you don’t know before donating. You can avoid scams by looking for organizations endorsed by other organizations or media members.
You might start with searching U.S.-based registered charities and nonprofits through the Internal Revenue Service’s web site: https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/search-for-tax-exempt-organizations That can help you locate the right group; many scammers deliberately use a name similar to well-known nonprofits.
- Give to charities that have a track record in Ukraine. Look for groups who have already built local relationships, trust, and infrastructure—they’ll be more expert at operating in dire circumstances.
Examples are Razom for Ukraine, and UNICEF, a United Nations agency that protects children worldwide. UNICEF provides immediate relief and is able to pressure Russia to allow unrestricted humanitarian access.
- Send cash, not goods. Don’t send clothing or supplies. The Ukrainian supply lines need to stay open for medicine and food. Trust the people on the ground to know which needs are the highest priority.
- Make gifts that reflect your values or passion. Giving meets a deep psychological need in people. Donors are motivated to give based on values that are important to them.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s website www.myfloridalegal.com also offers tips to help you avoid being scammed.
In fact, here’s an example of a scam attempting to exploit the recent heroic actions of Florida Highway Patrol Master Trooper Toni Schuck. (She’s the trooper who selflessly drove her patrol vehicle in front of a speeding drunken driver on March 6 in a 10K race in St. Petersburg. She protected countless runners from injury or death and is recovering from the crash.) The Attorney General’s website warned about two fake GoFundMe campaigns, supposedly for that incident, that have since been taken down.
FHP stated there are NO authorized online fundraisers connected to this incident.
Tips to avoid fraud when you donate:
- Find a reputable organization and donate proactively; don’t wait to be solicited.
- Research charities using Charity Navigator (www.charitynavigator.org) and by checking with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at FreshFromFlorida.com or call 800. HELP. FLA to determine whether the charity is registered to solicit donations in Florida.
- Avoid solicitors who use high-pressure tactics or who hesitate to provide more info about a charitable organization;
- If you’re donating online, be sure to confirm the identity of the recipient and be careful when providing any personal info.
- Call the Florida Attorney General’s Office at 866.9NO.SCAM (926.7226) or the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance a 703.276.0100 to determine whether any complaints were filed.
There are so many people in need and I encourage all of us to help each other. Please protect yourself when donating to help disaster victims.
If you believe you are victim of a fraud, go online to MyFloridaLegal.com or call 866.966.7226 to file a complaint Call the Volusia Sheriff’s Office non-emergency number at 386.248.1777. We’re always here to help.
Stay safe and stay smart,
Sheriff Mike Chitwood