In the wake of the Orlando shooting, many want to help victims and their families by giving donations. Unfortunately, scammers may try to take advantage of their kindness.
"Scammers depend on heightened emotion and often follow closely behind tragic events," Holly Salmons, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Central Florida, said in a press release.
In these situations, crowdfunding sites can be set up quickly to collect donations. Because these sites aren't generally vetted, anyone may be able to set one up, including scammers, which we saw following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The Better Business Bureau expects we'll see fraudulent sites and other scams appear in the wake of the Orlando shooting.
"We are already hearing about clickbait schemes and questionable solicitations, and we expect there will be numerous scams and frauds," H. Art Taylor, the President and CEO of Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, said in the release. "We urge those generous donors to give wisely so their gifts can do the most good."
If you are considering making a donation to the Orlando shooting victims, the Better Business Bureau encourages you to be safe online. Don't click on links you aren't familiar with, and be sure to check the URL for accuracy. Scammers often register a misspelled version of a popular website to lure people who hit the wrong key. (You can read more about how to spot an internet scam here.)
Here are a few other things you should be aware of:
- Vague appeals: If the site doesn't explain how they intend to use the funds being donated or say when they'll be used, the Better Business Bureau says it's a red flag.
- Government registration: The majority of states require charities register with a state government agency before soliciting, so be sure you're giving to a registered charity.
- Family funds: Families may set up their own assistance fund, so it won't be registered with the government, but the Better Business Bureau says to make sure the money is received and administered by a third party (like a bank, CPA or lawyer), as this will help ensure the funds are used appropriately.
- Transparency: A charity should clearly account for the funds they receive and how they're spent after they're raised.
If you think you've fallen victim to a scam, you may want to notify authorities. And, particularly if you've turned over sensitive personal information, you may want watch for any signs of identity theft, which can include a sudden drop in your credit scores, mysterious accounts being opened in your name and unknown addresses appearing on your credit report. (You can view two of your credit scores, updated each month, for free on Credit.com.)