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10 Tips for Donating to Charities for Ukraine

Choose wisely and avoid scam artists

A demonstrator hands out sunflower pins during a protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine
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If you want to donate to relief efforts for Ukrainians, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have some advice about how to make sure you choose a legitimate and effective charity.

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The BBB warns that scammers will likely create fake donation websites and make fraudulent pleas for money to supposedly help the people of war-torn Ukraine.

Such deception “puts donors at risk of money loss and identity theft,” says Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the BBB of Chicago and Northern Illinois.

Before giving, donors should visit BBB’s Give.org for tips on how to best help. Not all relief groups will provide timely help to those in need unless they already have a presence in Ukraine, it says.

In addition to the BBB, other groups that check out charities include CharityNavigator, CharityWatch and GuideStar.

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The BBB has six tips for prospective donors:

1. Can the charity get to the impacted area? Not all relief organizations will be positioned to provide relief quickly, so check that a charity already has a presence in Ukraine.

2. Should you send clothing and food? Local drives to collect clothing and food to send overseas may not be practical, since the logistics of delivering and dispersing the goods will be challenging.

3. Does the charity meet the BBB Standards for Charity Accountability? These include such criteria as what percentage of gifts get to those in need.

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4. Is the charity experienced in emergency relief? Established disaster-relief charities are the best bet to help deliver aid promptly. New entrants may have difficulty, despite the best of intentions.

5. Considering a crowdfunding appeal? The safest route is to give to someone you know and trust. Keep in mind that some crowdfunding sites do minimal vetting. Also, review the platform’s policies on fees and the distribution of donations.

6. Does a charity make exaggerated claims, such as “100 percent will be spent on relief”? Since all charities have fundraising and administrative expenses, any organization claiming otherwise is potentially misleading people.

FBI cautions

According to the FBI, scams are prevalent after high-profile events, and “criminals often use tragedies to exploit you and others who want to help.”

The FBI cautions that charity scams can take the form of emails, social media posts, cold calls and crowdfunding requests. Fraudsters even pretend to be with the government.

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Here are four FBI suggestions:

1. Beware of groups with copycat names or names similar to those of reputable, well-known organizations.

2. Don’t click on links or open attachments from strangers.

3. Don’t provide personal information in response to an email, robocall or robotext.

4. If you want to donate, use a check or credit card. Remember, if a group asks you to donate using cash, gift cards, virtual currency or a wire transfer, it’s probably a scam.

Katherine Skiba covers scams and fraud for AARP. Previously she was a reporter with the Chicago Tribune, U.S. News & World Report, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. She was a recipient of Harvard University's Nieman Fellowship and is the author of the book, Sister in the Band of Brothers: Embedded with the 101st Airborne in Iraq.

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