Action Line: Be wary of charity scams in Sandy's wake
BY PHIL MULKINS World Action Line Editor
Thursday, November 01, 2012
11/01/12 at 3:28 AM
Dear Action Line: Now that Superstorm Sandy has devastated the East Coast, these local do-gooders will bring out their trucks and get on TV telling everyone to "bring your donated clothing and bottled water and canned tuna on down to the XYZ parking lot, and we will pack our truck with it and drive it to Disaster OMG victims." Is this really the best way to help disaster victims? - M.A.H., Tulsa.
State Attorney General Scott Pruitt issued a warning for Oklahomans who plan to contribute to charities and assist residents in the Northeast following Sandy. He said officials in several states reported "scammers calling households, claiming to be hurricane-related charities. Charity fraud can also happen with local door-to-door solicitations, emails and telephone calls."
In the wake of Sandy, the Better Business Bureau advises consumers to do their research before making any donations to charities assisting those affected by the storm.
"Scam artists - phony charities - live for these kinds of natural disasters," said Rick Brinkley, chief operating officer of the Tulsa Better Business Bureau, serving eastern Oklahoma. "Destruction and devastation occurs, and people like this rise up from the cracks of hell to take advantage of those attempting the help those in need.
"The saddest part is that people rarely know they have been taken advantage of and do not file complaints about it with the Better Business Bureau. Not only does the donor lose, but so does the legitimate charity, and as a result those who need help the most don't receive it."
Regarding the "trucks in parking lots" approach, the BBB offers six basic caveats about disaster charity fundraising, and the one about "trucking in relief goods" is as follows:
"In-kind drives for food and clothing, while well-intentioned, may not necessarily be the quickest way to help those in need - unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to distribute such aid properly. Ask the charity about its transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance. Never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown charity." For more tips you can trust, visit tulsaworld.com/BBBWiseGiving
The Public Protection Unit of the Attorney General's Office offered the following warning signs for possible charity scams:
For information on reputable charities, Pruitt suggested going online to tulsaworld.com/CharityWatch
- High pressure pitches: Reject them - it's OK to hang up.
- Requests for cash: Avoid giving cash donations.
- Charities that offer to send couriers or overnight delivery services to collect money.
- Charities asking for banking or credit card information over the telephone.
- Charities using names similar to well-known organizations.
Original Print Headline: Disasters bring out charity scam artists
Submit Action Line questions by calling 918-699-8888, emailing phil.mulkins@TulsaWorld.com or by mailing them to Tulsa World Action Line, PO Box 1770, Tulsa OK 74102-1770.