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Here's how you can avoid getting scammed when donating to support Ukraine

The Better Business Bureau and the BBB Wise Giving Alliance have tips on donating to charity and avoiding crowdfunding scams.
Boonchai Wedmakawand
Getty Images
The Better Business Bureau and the BBB Wise Giving Alliance have tips on donating to charity and avoiding crowdfunding scams.

As the Russian military invasion of Ukraine continues to intensify, so too has the humanitarian crisis that is forcing Ukrainians to evacuate their homes and take refuge in shelters throughout the country or in neighboring countries.

So far, about one-quarter of Ukraine's 44 million people have fled the country due to the war, according to the United Nations.

But while many people around the world want to help, whether it's through money, crowdfunding campaigns or donating supplies, it unfortunately creates the opportunity for scammers to take advantage of those wanting to donate.

"When people try and take advantage of generous donors, they're going to do so when the emotion runs high and the heat of the moment. And that's mainly after disasters and tragedies — things of that nature when people are motivated to give," says Bennett Weiner, executive vice president and chief operating officer with the BBB (Better Business Bureau) Wise Giving Alliance.

To ensure your donation goes to the right destination, Weiner and the BBB Wise Giving Alliance offer the following tips for when you're looking for ways to help Ukraine.

Slow down and be sure to verify the charity

Weiner says that sometimes, rash decisions can be the wrong decisions when it comes to making a monetary contribution.

Before pulling out your wallet or credit card, be sure to go directly to the charity's website itself, as opposed to social media, to ensure your donation gets in the right hands.

"When people ask you to make a donation, do your due diligence to find out more about the group. See if it's one that you want to support," he says.

Additionally, the BBB adds that individuals can verify a charity's legitimacy by viewing a detailed evaluative report that is completed by the Wise Giving Alliance.

When making a donation, be sure to use trusted sources

Following a tragedy or natural disaster, an influx of advisories begins to go out online — both on social media and in your inbox — with suggestions of places to donate to.

But Weiner says to be sure to go to sources you trust in terms of organizations that have been vetted for legitimacy.

"The key thing is to find out more about the organization before you make the donation," says Weiner.

Furthermore, Weiner adds that individuals should watch out for newly created organizations. While some organizations may have good intentions to help with a particular situation, they might not have the right experience or connections to the crisis you're supporting.

"Established relief organizations are your best bet. Many of them already have presences in the area, and they know the type of assistance they need to provide [to individuals]," says Weiner.

Be cautious of crowdfunding charities

When making a donation via a crowdfunding platform, be sure to verify and check out the group online. Weiner says to keep in mind that not all crowdfunding sites do the same type of vetting when it comes to who posts on their site.

"Just because they run a crowdfunding site doesn't necessarily mean they've been thoroughly vetted. Take your time to find out more before you give," he adds.

But if you choose to engage in crowdfunding, it is safest to donate to someone you personally know and trust. Also, be sure to review the platform's policies when it comes to fees and the distribution of collected funds, the BBB advises.

Report any suspicious activity on your account

If you believe you've been the victim of a scam when it comes to donating funds to charity, contact your financial institution immediately to ensure no other money is stolen from your account.

Additionally, you can file a complaint online with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center.

As more refugees are fleeing to neighboring countries, the need for more donations will continue, and Weiner emphasizes that emergency needs are continually changing.

"There are many different types of organizations out there providing help, and there also will be many opportunities to give. Don't think this one time is the only time you'll be able to help," he adds.

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Jonathan Franklin is a digital reporter on the News desk covering general assignment and breaking national news.