WASHINGTON — The stories about Australia’s bushfires are heartbreaking. Many people are looking for a way to help, but scammers are very aware, too.
There are more than 3,000 GoFundMe campaigns alone, but they might not all be legit.
So, we’re going to show you how to choose a verified relief effort.
Anyone can start a fundraiser for just about anything. GoFundMe guarantees that if you donate to a fraudulent campaign, you’re eligible for a refund. But we still want to make sure you know the red flags to look for.
For example, we found several organizers raising money for a nonprofit, like the Australian Red Cross or Wildlife Information Rescue Education Services.
Instead, donate directly to the nonprofit, cutting out the middle man and avoiding any attempt of potential fraud.
Next, look to see what the purpose of the campaign is, and a plan for how the funds will be used. Be wary of any photos that show gruesome or emotional photos, but offer no clear plan.
Third, donors should check to see whether the recipient is in control of withdrawing the money. If there isn’t a clear path for the funds to reach those affected, you might want to rethink giving.
If you see a charity you haven’t heard of, make sure it’s an official nonprofit before donating. You can search Australia’s charity database at acnc.gov.au/charity
“There are currently a wide range of appeals raising funds for people affected by bush fires,” the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission said online, “Unfortunately, some of these are scams.”
You can report a fake fundraiser to the ACCC through their website.