Experts warn people to do research before donating to flood victims

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COLUMBIA - The Better Business Bureau is warning people to take extra precautions when donating to flooding victims and to check to make sure non-profits and charities are legitimate before giving away personal information.

Sean Spence, Better Businesses Bureau regional director, said, "Don’t make a contribution over the phone to somebody you have never heard of before. Take a step back. They are still going to need your money in a later day. They’re still going to need your money tomorrow and in a week, and do the research, check them out on the web, call them back on the phone, make sure they are for real."

Spence said scams pop up every time a national tragedy occurs.

United Way Executive Director Andrew Grabau advises people to search GuideStar online to profile non-profits and charities and make sure they are a legitimate organizations. 

"You can research all registered non-profit agencies because on that website. You can also look at their tax filings. The form 9-90 is a tax form that all 501-C3’s have to file with the government, and you can make sure they are legitimate through that source," Grabau said.

Spence said, "You want to check the charity before you give them a single dime."

If people want to donate locally to Baton Rouge, Grabau said United Way can designate every dollar directly to the efforts in Louisiana. 

He said people wanting to donate should look into established non-profits that are known for disaster relief. 

There currently are no reported scams from the flooding. The BBB's website offers a scam tracker.