Better Business Bureau Predicts Another Scam for Oklahoma Tornado Victims

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COLUMBIA - The Better Business Bureau warned Missourians of the Oklahoma tornado disaster relief scams last week, and now it is predicting another scam.

Investigator Bill Smith of the Better Business Bureau said Wednesday that the donation scams will not be the only scams for the disaster. He said "unscrupulous" contractors are also dangerous. Those are the contractors who are paid to complete construction on a house, but leave after they are paid and before they finish construction.

"We'll probably see a lot of those scams later this year," Smith said. "Some will not do good jobs. Some will leave the area or just disappear."

The Attorney General's office said the Joplin tornado had similar scams. Press Secretary, Nancy Gonder, released the following statistics from the Joplin tornado that were related to some kind of scam or shoddy work:

 

  • 41 complaints about charity 
  • 24 complaints about towing 
  • 148 complaints about rental issues 
  • 132 complaints about home repair

 


Gonder also listed 11 filed legal actions thus far for the Joplin tornado:

 

  • 6 on contractors
  • 2 on charities
  • 2 on towing companies
  • 1 on a landlord

 


Executive Director Dave Griffith of the American Red Cross said the only people his organization approaches are people they have relationships with.

"If you have donated to the Red Cross in the past, there's a chance that we might be giving you a phone call to ask for a donation for this disaster," Griffith said. "But I can tell you that we do not just cold call people over the phone."

The BBB also issued some safety tips that can help you make sure your donation will be used appropriately:

 

  • If you are unfamiliar with an organization, don't hesitate to ask the charity for written information about its programs and finances
  • Don't succumb to pressure to give money on the spot. A charity that can use your money today will welcome it just as much tomorrow. 
  • Before making online donations, determine whether the charity's website is secure and that it has a privacy policy concerning the use of your name, email address or other personal facts. 
  • When considering support for a cause-related marketing campaign, find the answers to these questions: what portion of the purchase price will benefit the charity? What is the duration of the campaign? What is the maximum or minimum total contribution?

Griffith said people who receive conspicuous calls should ask them what their phone number is and what chapter of the Red Cross they are affiliated with.

 

"When we make a phone call, we identify who we are, what chapter we are with, and the purpose of our call," Griffith said. "And we do those in that particular order."

Donors are also encouraged to look for the "BBB Accredited Charity seal" on a charity's website or other literature. The BBB said if the seal is there, donors can be assured that the charity complies with the BBB's "20 Standards of Charity Accountability." If it does not have the seal, the BBB urges donors to look for the charity's BBB Charity Review at stlouis.bbb.org/charity. More information can be found on www.bbb.org.

The Salvation Army learned of "robocalls," or telephone calls from automated sources, last week. The organization claimed those robocalls go toward tornado disaster relief in Oklahoma. The scammers referenced the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army. They typically said they are "on the site working, and we need more funds to keep help coming." But the Red Cross and Salvation Army both said they would never ask for money over the phone.

Griffith said he doesn't know if he should comment on how scammers should be punished, but he thinks the Attorney General needs to be aware of the problem.

"If somebody is coming to your door, you definitely should call the police and the sheriff and let them know," Griffith said.

He also said the Red Cross has raised over twenty five thousand dollars in disaster relief donations for the Oklahoma Tornado and does not think the scams will harm the Red Cross' credibility.

"I think that the American public has gotten used to this type of activity and it's a sad commentary," Griffith said.

 

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