Better Business Bureau warns of donating to phony hurricane relief charities, organizations

TOLEDO, Ohio (13abc Action News) - We're seeing it virtually everywhere, people or groups asking for your money to help those devastated by the hurricanes in the south.

"Americans are generous—they want to help," said President of the Better Business Bureau of Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan Richard Eppstein. "People up in our area want to help and they're going to be donating a lot of money to help the folks down there."

But before you donate a dime to relief efforts, the Better Business Bureau wants you to be aware of some potential red flags.

Tip number one: be cautious of would-be charities that call you asking for a donation.

"If somebody is calling you up on the phone--you get a recorded message, a 'robo call,' saying, 'Donate money,' or a pop-up on your computer, that worries us," said Eppstein.

He adds that just because Caller I.D. shows someone like the Red Cross, it doesn't always mean that's the case.

"I'm very nervous about anything on Caller I.D. because the criminals love to fake names," said Eppstein. "They can put anything they want on your phone."

Tip number two: use caution when donating to crowd sourcing sites like GoFundMe as not all of the causes are legit.

"Unless you can really check out the crowd funding location that you're going to, I would stay away from it," said Eppstein.

Tip number three: always double check to make sure the charity or people you're giving to are the real deal.

"Go to their website—make sure it's their real website—and you would donate that way," said Eppstein. "Or just contact them locally and send them a check that way or a credit card over the phone."

Simple tips that can help make sure you don't get scammed and those who need help get it.

"Give, but give wisely," said Eppstein. "We encourage people to donate, but heaven's sakes don't let your money get wasted or cheated out of you. Make sure it goes to the cause and really helps."

The Better Business Bureau rates credible charities based off 20 standards. We have a link to those groups and organizations in the sidebar of this story.

If you feel you've fallen victim to a hurricane relief scam, you're asked to file a police report or contact the BBB.