In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine it didn’t take long for the rats to appear in the U.S. and around the world. The financial rats. The kind that lie, cheat, and steal to take advantage of terror and tragedy.
Fake or hacked social media accounts and websites, video appeals, phony phone calls and phishing e-mails aren’t raising money for relief of Ukrainians, but for criminals using the cash to pay for everything from beach vacations to financing terrorism and human trafficking.Nashville’s CBS affiliate, WTVF-TV, in a story on the Better Business Bureau’s efforts to warn Americans of criminals posing as charities, reported:
“They (the BBB) said it’s important for organizations to have a track record in the countries impacted, like Ukraine. You want an organization that knows what it's doing and that can get money where it needs to be so it can do the most good. Vague emotional requests for money should be red flags.”
Scams are typically named to take advantage as much as possible of the desire people have to help others in need, and Ukraine’s people, under Russian guns, bombs, and missiles, are most assuredly in need. Therefore, when a site claiming to, for example, “Help Ukraine Today” appears, or a video of a crying woman begs for help, its design, language, or claims of effectiveness are often accepted as evidence of its credibility where no credibility exists.
There’s danger of good intentions leading to bad outcomes. But there are ways to protect ourselves.
If you have an accountant, financial advisor, attorney or tax attorney, seek their advice before making a contribution to a charity about which you’ve never heard, that makes extravagant claims about its impact, or that can’t be verified through the use of due diligence. Professionals can help lead you away from throwing your money down a criminal’s hole.
Apart from that, there are other protection steps available. Avoid sending money to any solicitation by telephone call or e-mail from an alleged charitable organization or someone claiming to represent a familiar-sounding charity. Scammers often try to approximate closely the names of reputable charitable organizations, thereby lulling their targets into a false sense of confidence.
The BBB and Charity Navigator are two resources that have developed tools to locate charities in which donors can have confidence. Locating a solid charity is a better strategy than spending time warding off dishonest fakes.
BBB reputation checks on businesses and charities are available on the BBB website, https://www.bbb.org/search, and its “scamtracker,” https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker.
The BBB’s website https://www.give.org provides access to a list of charities working on Ukraine relief, saying that the “BBB Wise Giving Alliance produced a list of BBB Accredited Charities (i.e., meet the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability) that are raising funds for Ukraine-related relief assistance along with wise giving advice on making such donations. Some of these charities are carrying out activities in Ukraine while others are focused on refugees that have fled to neighboring countries.”
The Charity Navigator website, https://www.charitynavigator.org, rates charities on finance and accountability, impact and results, leadership and adaptability, and culture and community, explaining on the site its methodology for each.
Donating to worthy causes, such as relief for Ukraine and its people, is a noble thing. Using careful due diligence in making contributions is an effective way to help others – and not feed the rats.
This article first appeared in KnoxNews.