ORLANDO, Fla. – It is sad but true. Con artists often prey on generosity, which is why the Better Business Bureau is asking the public to be wary of Orlando shooting charity scams.
Scammers often surface to steal your money during the outflowing of support following a devastating event.
*Never click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites or in texts or emails. These may take you to a look-a-like website where you will be asked to provide personal financial information or to click on something that downloads harmful malware into your computer.
*Don't assume charity recommendations you spot on Facebook, blogs or other social media have already been vetted.
A popular way to give is the website GoFundMe.com
It is important to note that GoFundMe states that it is not feasible to investigate the claims stated by each campaign donor. Their recommendation is that you only donate to people you personally know and trust.
Below is a full statement from Bobby Whithorne of GoFundMe:
"There are currently 150 campaigns that have raised money for the victims of Orlando. We have vetted and are in communication with the campaign organizers to ensure they are communicating clearly to the donors about how the funds will be used. We are also vetting new campaigns that are created and guiding new campaign organizers to either donate to Equality Florida's campaign, start their own charity campaign to raise funds for Equality Florida, or start their own personal campaign if they have a direct personal connection to a victim. In order to protect the donors, the funds raised for individuals or families will not be released until the recipient is identified, verified, and vetted.
If a campaign is flagged as fraudulent or the campaign organizer cannot verify how the funds will be distributed, the funds will not be released until a beneficiary is identified and verified.
Additionally, in the rare case that a campaign is fraudulent, donors will be refunded.
Overall, we have multiple layers of protection in place, we deploy proprietary technical tools, and have a dedicated team that works around the clock to monitor fraudulent behavior. In addition to technical tools and a dedicated team, we have a community of 25 million users -- when they see something they think might not be right, they tell us, and our team looks into it."
Whithorne said people who donated to a fraudulent GoFundMe account for the Orlando victims will be refunded and encouraged to donate to Equality Florida's GoFundMe account, which has already amassed more than $3.5 million.
Whithorne said GoFundMe itself donated $100,000 to the organization and the GoFundMe account is the fastest growing campaign in GoFundMe's history.
Click here to report a fraudulent GoFundMe campaign.
"We are already hearing about click-bait schemes and questionable solicitations, and we expect there will numerous scams and frauds," said H. Art Taylor, president & CEO of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. "The best way to help the victims, their families and the people of Orlando is to make sure that donations end up where they belong."
That is where the Call Christina Team is stepping in to help.
HOW TO HELP:
The Call Christina team has verified with Equality Florida that this is their legitimate GoFundMe website.
The civil rights organization is raising funds for the victims and families of the shooting.
At a news conference this morning hosted by the Orlando Regional Medical Center, staff indicated two ways you can donate to their level one trauma center.
*You can text "Orlando" to 20222 to donate $10. The donation will be added to your cell phone carrier bill.
*Donate online with a credit card to give.orlandohealth.com/ORMC
If you have questions contact OrlandoHealthGiving@OrlandoHealth.com
Another resource is Charity Navigator, America's largest independent evaluator of thousands of American charities.
"Charity Navigator's rating system examines two broad areas of a charity's performance; their Financial Health and their Accountability and Transparency," the company states on its website. "Our ratings show givers how efficiently we believe a charity will use their support today, how well it has sustained its programs and services over time and their level of commitment to good governance, best practices and openness with information."
The Florida Attorney General's Office offered these tips to avoid charity-related scams:
- Consider donating to an established disaster-relief charity or an established aid organization based in the Orlando area. Numerous incident-specific charities may be created, some legitimately wishing to bring aid to those affected and others wishing to profit off of the goodwill offered in a time of need;
- Determine whether a charity soliciting money is legitimate by checking to see if it is registered with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at 800HelpFla.com or by calling 1(800) HELP-FLA;
- Contact the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance at Give.org to determine whether a charity has any complaints against them;
- Understand how much of the donation will actually go toward the work of the charity as opposed to administrative and fundraising expenses. To learn more about a registered charity’s spending visit FreshFromFlorida.com; and
- Watch for similar sounding charities. It’s not unusual for scammers to choose names that sound like the names of legitimate, widely known charities.
Consumers who believe they have been a victim of a scam or other fraudulent activity may file a complaint by calling 1(866) 9-NO-SCAM or by visiting MyFloridaLegal.com.
The Call Christina Team reached out to Rod Davis, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Southeast Florida and the Caribbean, who stated in an email: "Everyone wants to do their part to help the victims in Orlando. Take time to research the charitable sources so that your funds are used effectively. BBB tips are a good starting point to help donors evaluate the options to assist in this time of need. Let your head help your heart help others."
Click here to read the BBB's tips for donating to charities in English.
Click here to read the BBB's tips for donating to charities in Spanish.