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Warning issued over fake charities involving Hurricane Ida & Afghanistan; here's what to look for

Tropical Storm
Posted at 5:53 AM, Aug 31, 2021

(WXYZ) — From what's happening in Afghanistan to the scenes following Hurricane Ida's devastating destruction in Louisiana, help is needed for rebuilding lives.

But the Better Business Bureau is warning people to be on the lookout for phony philanthropies.

Just this summer, someone from the Clarkston area alerted the BBB scam tracker about an organization called "Veteran Village USA," writing in part, "many people are out several thousands of dollars," and "I highly doubt that money is going to the veterans' cause."

“Whether it’s a national disaster or social unrest, there are always scammers that are trying to take advantage of that," Laura Blankenship with the BBB of Detroit and Eastern Michigan said.

She added that the scams happen almost right away after a natural disaster or crisis. Blankenship said she's seeing crowdfunding sites pop up overnight depending on humanitarian problems around the world.

"One thing these scammers do really well is coming up with names that mimic actual charities," she said. "So, while you’re thinking you’re giving to a legitimate charity, it may be something that literally popped up overnight.”

According to Blakenship, the majority of charity scams happen online, either through email, online search, or social media ads.

The BBB has not received any reports of victims of fake Haiti, phony Hurricane Ida relief, or Afghanistan-related charities, but they anticipate they will soon.

Blankenship has already seen sponsored advertisements on social media for charities reportedly helping those in Afghanistan, and she saw a couple of major red flags.

“One, they don’t have hands on the ground there. Two, it gives you this big story and, it’s bringing you in. And it’s asking you for a specific amount of money, and it’s asking you to act now," she said.

The BBB advises you to resist pressure to give money on the spot, don't fall for charity name confusion, watch out for vague program descriptions, and find out more about the charity.

You can check out Charity Navigator or see if the charity is registered with the Michigan Attorney General's Office.
There's also the BBB Wise Giving Alliance's website that can be another helpful resource.

If you've seen any fake charitable sites related to crises happening around the world or here in the U.S., Blankenship asks that you report it to the BBB Scam Tracker right away, or file a complaint against the charity on the attorney general's website.