After Nepal earthquake, BBB offers tips to avoid charity scams

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COLUMBIA - In light of natural disasters like the devastating earthquake in Nepal, the mid-Missouri Better Business Bureau (BBB) offered tips to help consumers avoid scams from illegitimate charities.

While mid-Missourians haven't reported scams related to Nepal relief efforts, the mid-Missouri BBB said people should still be cautious because they could be targeted online or over the phone.

Mike Harrison, mid-Missouri BBB regional director, said it's human nature for people to want to help, and for people to want to help quickly.

"We want people to give, but we want them to give wisely," he said.

Harrison said when people's emotions run high, it can cloud their judgment and invite scammers to take advantage of their good nature.

The BBB offered the following tips to help people avoid donating to illegitimate charities:

1) Take the time to do research to make sure you're giving to an established charity. Harrison said charities can pop up overnight, and it's important to investigate their credibility.

2) Make sure the money you're giving is being used how you intended. Find out how much of your donation goes to helping the cause, and how much is paid to the charity.

3) Be cautious of charities with names that sound similar to legitimate organizations. Many scammers will change a word or a letter to create a new company name that's similar to a reputable organization.

4) Call the charity directly. Ask a lot of questions about the organization's background and its operations.

5) Don't give out credit card information or any other personal information if you get an unsolicited phone call.

To find out if a specific charity is reputable, the BBB suggests searching for the organization on its website.