The internet has made it easier than ever for people to scam others in the name of charity, and it’s important to know how to tell who is actually receiving the donations intended for a specific cause.
We at The Alestle know that as college students, money can be tight. So, it’s important to make sure whatever money we can spare for donations goes to the people who need it.
Hurricane Dorian is a good example of how the donation process can be complicated. According to the United States Agency for International Development, cash is often the most effective way to send aid to others in the aftermath of a natural disaster — it doesn’t require transportation costs and can boost the local economy. However, to whom that money should be sent is a more difficult question.
In a recent Reddit “ask me anything” thread with Tamar Pinder, a resident of the Bahamas, designed to raise awareness and funds for hurricane relief, there were concerns about the thread’s author posting his own Bitcoin wallet link, in addition to posting other well-known charities like the Bahamas Red Cross.
From the rest of the thread, it seemed like Pinder spent that money on his community, but it’s hard to be sure of his real intentions.
It’s not like internet charity scams are uncommon, either. In April, NPR reported that Katelyn McClure pleaded guilty to Theft By Deception for making up an exaggerated story about a homeless man for a GoFundMe page. McClure and her boyfriend raised over $400,000 on the page, and allegedly only gave $25,000 to the intended recipient.
Unfortunately, personal donation pages like GoFundMe are extremely hard to verify. Even in McClure’s case, the story went viral on social media and garnered donations from 14,000 donors. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ever donate to a GoFundMe page, just that it’s far more difficult to identify who might be trying to scam others than it would be through a different donation method.
Luckily, there are a few different ways to check up on an organization and see if they’re reputable. Some of the best options to examine a charity’s credibility are websites like CharityNavigator or CharityWatch. The Better Business Bureau also has listings on charities or specific chapters of a larger organization.
Donating to a believable cause or to others in general is a gratifying experience, and we shouldn’t let bad apples stop us from doing as much good in the world as possible.
However, with limited resources available to all of us, we have to make sure those contributions will be put to good use, not disappear into thin air.