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BBB Wise Giving tips for donors in response to victims of California wildfires

This year, wildfires have caused major destruction throughout California. Reported this week, two wildfires in Orange County have grown out of control as a result of strong winds causing more than 80,000 evacuations. The “Silverado Fire” near Irvine has reportedly burned 12,600 acres, while the “Blue Ridge” wildfire near Yorba Linda is up to 15,200 acres and 10 homes damaged. In response to this devastation, Better Business Bureau Serving the Pacific Southwest (BBB) offers wise giving tips for those seeking to donate to victims.

Michael Sedio, Vice President, Chief Operations Officer and General Counsel of BBB Serving the Pacific Southwest, said, “Scammers are opportunists and will, unfortunately, take advantage of major incidents reported in the news. We expect to see California wildfire fundraising appeals on social media and crowdfunding sites. Some will be from well-intentioned individuals who are not directly involved with California wildfires, but some may be from scammers.”
Gwen Earle, Orange County Regional Director, encourages donors to visit BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance to find charities they can trust. Properly researching before deciding to donate can prevent consumers from falling prey to potential fundraising scams.

Here are five BBB Wise Giving tips for donors:

  1. Give to vetted charities. Visit give.org to find out if the charity engaged in relief activities, for the California fires, meets BBB Standards for Charity Accountability.
  2. Crowdfunding cautions. If you are considering donating to a crowdfunding post raising money for a victim of the California fires, it is safest to give to families or individuals you know personally. Not all crowdfunding sites have enough procedures to verify the accuracy of postings.
  3. Charity appeals should specify funded activities. Be wary of relief appeals from charities that have vague program descriptions and do not identify what activities will be funded through the money raised.
  4. Watch out for click-bait or phishing scams. Online giving scams tend to pop up after a disaster or tragedy to take advantage of public sympathy. Don’t click on links in email, text, or social media messages promising to connect you to familiar charities; visit the website of these groups on your own.
  5. Registered to solicit? Most states require charities to register with a state government agency (usually a division of either the Office of the Attorney General or Secretary of State) before they can solicit contributions. Check out the applicable government agency’s website to find out more.

Donors are encouraged to contribute to established relief organizations that meet the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability. These organizations will be in the best position to provide assistance quickly and effectively.
The following organizations are BBB Accredited Charities and are currently collecting funds to assist those impacted by the California wildfires.

American Red Cross
Direct Relief
Salvation Army

This article was released by the Better Business Bureau Serving the Pacific Southwest.