CHICAGO (WLS) — The devastation in the south after a spate of deadly tornadoes last week has many people wanting to give back. However, tragedy is often a magnet for con artists who want to take advantage of people's generosity.
Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau, shares the organization's recommendations for avoiding such pitfalls.
To help those who wish to support relief efforts, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers the following tips:
- Is the request for disaster relief clear? Seek open and clear requests for what disaster relief services you support.
- Is charity experienced in disaster management? Support an experienced organization that is ready to provide fast and effective assistance. Be wary of organizations that form overnight after a disaster.
- Should you donate items? Donating money is the fastest way to help and gives charities the flexibility to channel resources to affected areas. Instead of donating food, consider supporting a food bank near the affected area. Visit Feed Americawho work with food banks across the country.
- What about crowdfunding requests? If involved in crowdfunding, it's safest to give it to someone you know and trust personally. Also review the platform's policies and procedures, keeping in mind that while some crowdfunding sites take steps to check postings, others do not.
The following organizations are BBB-accredited charities that are currently announcing that they are raising funds to help with tornado relief efforts:
And, as the weather warms, door-to-door scams are also coming out of hibernation along with bogus utility and security reps.
It's also the season for home improvement tricks and the inevitable storm chasers.
The BBB says scammers get prepared tips:
- Be wary of red flag high pressure selling tactics, up front fees, and handshake deals.
- Anyone who pressures you to pay or sign a contract without allowing you to do your due diligence on BBB.org and other sources is someone you most likely will not want to do business with.
- Get a written contract detailing prices, materials and timelines. Illinois law requires a written contract for all projects that cost $1,000 or more.
- You can get some estimates in writing.
- Never allow strangers into your home unless you have checked the company. Always tell neighbors, family or friends if you have scheduled work in the house.
Spring also heralds the return of outdoor celebrations.
The excitement of baseball house openings and big concerts in Chicago provide scammers with lucrative opportunities to steal money, identities, tickets and fan delight. The BBB also expects a major scam attempt due to this year's lineup of major artists: Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Madonna, Dave Matthews, Bruce Springsteen, and many more. In addition, Lollapalooza, Pitchfork, Ravinia, Summerfest and other places are very popular. Many online platforms are already flooded with tickets for sale.
Here are BBB tips for baseball and concert fans to reduce the risk of losing money and identity theft:
- Purchase tickets at the box office or from the venue's official website, and be aware that imitations may show up first in internet searches.
- Only deal with secure websites. It will start with “HTTPS” and have a “lock” symbol in the address bar.
- Fake websites will offer tickets at low prices to trick people into entering their credit card info. Scammers can then use your credit card to buy expensive items. You never receive your ticket.
- A fake ticket with a fake barcode looks very professional with a copy paste of the logo from the real ticket company. You will be denied access when you arrive at the concert and the scammers are long gone.
- Another sneaky trick: Scammers will copy and paste the actual ticket and then “sell” it to multiple buyers, who all get a shock at the gate when they find out the ticket is invalid.
- Be careful when purchasing tickets sold on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or other free online listings. Fraudsters are experts at providing realistic tickets and fake receipts.
- Use a payment method that comes with protection. Always use a credit card, so you have recourse if the ticket isn't what was promised. Debit cards, wire transfers, or cash transactions are money lost if the ticket is counterfeit.
- Know the refund policy. Only buy tickets from ticket resellers who provide clear details about the terms of the transaction. Find out what happens if an event is canceled or the date is changed.
- Red flags: Scammers use high pressure to make quick sales knowing people are dying to see the show.
- Watch out for high transaction fees on your final purchase page. Many low-rated ticket sellers collect all of your information before showing you the sometimes exorbitant fee at the end of the transaction.
For official merchandise:
- Only buy merchandise at concert venues, on average, or from authorized MLB vendors.
- Know the refund policy. You may only purchase Merchandise from someone who discloses the terms and conditions of a refund or exchange.
- Be aware that unlicensed and unauthorized clothing is often made from lower quality materials which shrink and the ink can bleed and cause problems in the wash.
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