As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, concerns grow about current and potential emergency needs of the Ukraine people. Donors want to help by supporting charities that are raising funds for assistance.
The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance offers these tips for donors to consider along with a list of BBB Accredited Charities that have announced Ukraine-related activities or plans on their websites.
Donors should avoid questionable appeals by keeping the following tips in mind:
· Can the charity get to the impacted area? Not all relief organizations will be positioned to provide relief quickly. See if the charity already has a presence in Ukraine.
· Should you send clothing and food? Local drives to collect clothing and food to send overseas may not be practical as the logistics and timing to deliver and disperse such items will be challenging. Relief organizations are better equipped to obtain what is needed, distribute it effectively and avoid duplication of effort.
· Does the relief charity meet BBB Charity Standards? You can verify a charity’s trustworthiness by viewing an evaluative report completed by BBB Wise Giving Alliance. See the list provided below of charities that that are soliciting for relief assistance for Ukraine and that also meet the BBB Standards for Charitable Accountability.
· Is the charity experienced in providing emergency relief? Experienced disaster relief charities are the best bet to help deliver aid as soon as possible. New entrants may have difficulty in following through even if they have the best of intentions.
· Are you considering crowdfunding appeals? If engaging in crowdfunding, it is safest to give to someone you personally know and trust, and review the platform’s policies regarding fees and distribution of collected funds. If the crowdfunding request is from a charity, check out the group by visiting Give.org. Keep in mind that some crowdfunding sites do very little vetting of individuals or organizations that decide to post for relief assistance. Sites that take security measures will usually provide descriptions of these procedures.
· Does the appeal make exaggerated financial claims such as “100% will be spent on relief.” Charities have fundraising and administrative expenses. Any charity claiming otherwise is potentially misleading the donating public. Even a credit card donation will have a processing fee.
The following nationally-soliciting charities are BBB Accredited (i.e., they meet the 20 BBB Standards for Charitably Accountability.) Their respective websites indicate that they are either currently raising funds for assistance efforts in Ukraine or preparing for needs that could arise if conflict results in population displacement.
Catholic Relief Services
International Medical Corps
International Rescue Committee
Save the Children
United States Association for UNHCR
The BBB is also warning about student loan scams.
Caller to the Better Business Bureau: “I am so excited. I have been struggling to make payments on my student loans since I lost my job because of COVID. But I just got a phone call that the government will be paying off my student loans. This official agency said that they can handle the payoff and it will be very quick. I had to act right now to take advantage of the offer. They needed $400 to register for their program and I am supposed to make my loan payments to them from now on. They will let me know when my loans are canceled. Does BBB know about this?”
Nancy at BBB: Ma’am, I’m sorry, but this sounds like a scam to me. Only a small number of student loans are being paid off by the government. What you describe can be a fake telemarketer that can steal your money and get you in trouble with your lender. Here is why.
First, the government student loan programs have clear rules, and there is nothing a company can do you that you can’t do yourself for free. In addition, it is illegal for a company to charge you a fee in advance. They can only charge after they have actually provided help to you.
Don’t send loan payments to them! Your lender will get nothing and you will fall even further behind on your loan payments by the time you discover it’s a scam.
These people are promising quick payoff. This is very unlikely. Forgiveness programs can take years and have careful restrictions. They don’t know you, so how can they make promises like this? Assurances of quick payoffs are usually too good to be true.
A real “red flag” is the claim that you need to act immediately. Scammers use high pressure to get credit card numbers or bank account information before you have time to research or ask questions to your lender. It’s a common trick.
One warning: Don’t give them your FSA ID number. They may ask for it, but once they get it they can take control of your accounts and steal your personal information.
Don’t believe these people. Call your loan servicer and ask them if they are working with this company. I’ll be they aren’t, and they will warn you to stay away from them.