Wisconsin BBB warns of Australian wildfires charity scams

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT)– The Wisconsin Better Business Bureau is warning about potential Australian Wildfire relief scams. The fires have destroyed about 18 million acres of land, displacing families and wildlife.

The organization suggests people investigate before considering a crowdfunding donation. These posting can appear quickly, which can include scams or poorly conceived fundraising projects.

Also, some crowdfunding platforms do a better job of vetting posts and projects. They can also charge various processing fees that may reduce donation amounts.

People looking to donate on a crowdfunding website should check out the site’s description of its terms and procedures. Check to see who is behind the fundraising appeal and consider whether that person or group might legitimately represent the named charitable cause. If a charity is named, you might consider making a direct donation to the organization rather than relying on a third party.

Next, look at how the funds will be used. Vague descriptions of how the collected funds will be used should be a yellow caution light. Thoughtful requests for funding will identify genuine disaster needs and response abilities while communicating clearly about intended donation uses and plans.

Don’t assume pictures are used with permission. Some posting may use pictures of victims without their permission. Don’t assume the person posting the plea has an official connection.

If you do give, your contribution may not be deductible as a charitable gift. If a posting or charitable appeal is claiming to be helping a specific named individual or family, donors in the U.S. generally cannot take a federal income tax deduction. See IRS Publication 526, page 6, for more information on this subject. Keep in mind, if the charity is not located in the U.S., the gift would not be deductible, in most cases.

Finally, be cautious about appeals from people claiming to raise funds for Australian firefighters without any official connection to them. There are local fire service entities known as “brigades” that do accept donations to carry out their services. You can visit an official Australian government link like the NSW Rural Fire Service for more information.

The following charities located in Australia are raising funds to provide various types of assistance to people or wildlife. While the following five entities were not evaluated by the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, the American affiliates of these charities are BBB accredited (i.e., meet the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability.)

Australian Red Cross

Australian Salvation Army

Nature Conservancy Australia

St Vincent de Paul Society in Australia 

World Wildlife Fund Australia

United States-based charities. There are a number of U.S. based charities that are accepting funding to address the Australian fires. See the respective website links to find out more. The following list includes groups that are BBB Accredited (i.e., meet the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability.)

American Red Cross (a BBB Accredited Charity)

Direct Relief (a BBB Accredited Charity)

Global Giving (a BBB Accredited Charity)

International Fund for Animal Welfare (a BBB Accredited Charity)

Save the Children (a BBB Accredited Charity)