In lieu of the bombing of the Boston Marathon on Monday, many Americans are looking to help in any way they can. As is the American tradition, we are coming together in a time of tragedy to help one another. Unfortunately, not everyone who says they want to help is telling the truth.
In the weeks leading up to and after Superstorm Sandy, a huge number of “charities” and “funds” popped up, some legitimate and some not. One New Jersey “charity,” the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund, is now being sued for claiming to be a registered nonprofit when it wasn’t, collecting over 600,000 in funds, using donations for personal expenses, and for using less than 1% of donation out to victims of the storm.
HSRF isn’t the only group that scammed generous Americans during a time of tragedy, though it was certainly one of the most successful in getting donations and appearing legitimate. After the Newtown shootings, charity fraud popped up once more when a Bronx woman claimed to be the aunt of a victim collecting donations (which she planned to keep to herself). And now, in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon, the same is likely to happen again.
“Don’t just give on impulse because somebody says they are raising money for victims. Don’t assume it’s true,” says Ken Berger, who is President and Chief Executive Officer of the website, Charity Navigator. “The safest approach is known quantities rather than something that just popped up.”
The best thing those looking to give can do is to keep their eyes and minds alert. There are a number of established charitable organizations that potential donors can support. Large or small, official charities should be registered with the state as a nonprofit organization, as well as with the IRS. It is a good idea to check the Charity Navigator website to see whether or not a group is legitimate and trustworthy. The site scores all charities based on financial management and operations. It also has a blog section with advice on which charities to donate to for the Boston Marathon Bombing.