How to Donate to Disaster Relief and Avoid Being Scammed



When disaster strikes somewhere in the world — like the recent earthquakes in Nepal, or the war crisis in Ukraine — most of us feel a real urge to help. But it can be difficult to know exactly where and how to help. With so many organizations collecting assistance for various efforts, it can be hard to determine which charitable organization will make the best use of your donation, and sadly, these are busy times for scammers out to capitalize on your good deed.

The Better Business Bureau serving Mainland BC has issued these tips to help you make sure your money is going directly to those who need it most.


Be cautious when giving online. Watch out for spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. If you are seeking to give to a charitable organization involved in relief efforts, go directly to the charity’s website.

Instigate the donation process yourself. Don’t respond to unsolicited requests for money.

Be wary of bad grammar. Avoid if the website contains poor grammar, spelling mistakes and faulty links.

• Be cautious when giving money online. Make sure the website URL begins with https:// The ‘S’ stands for secure.

Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas. See if the charity’s website clearly describes what they can do to address immediate needs. Watch out for charities that don’t already have staff in the affected areas as they may not be able to provide assistance quickly.

Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups. Some charities may be raising money to pass along to relief organizations. If so, you may want to consider “avoiding the middleman” and give directly to charities that have a presence in the region. Or at least check out the ultimate recipients of these donations to ensure the organizations are equipped to actually provide aid.

Rely on expert opinion when it comes to evaluating a charity. Be careful when relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers or other websites, as they might not have fully researched the listed relief organizations. Check with the Canada Revenue Agency’s charity listings for information on legitimate organizations.

Be wary of claims that 100 per cent of donations will assist relief victims. Despite what an organization might claim, charities have fund raising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at minimum, a processing fee.

• Gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations. In-kind drives for food and clothing-while well intentioned- may not necessarily be the quickest way to help those in need, unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to be able to properly distribute such aid. Ask the charity about their transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance.

When Donating to the Red Cross be aware:

• The Red Cross does not send out unsolicited emails asking for money, ever.
• The Red Cross accepts payment on its website in two ways; credit card or Pay Pal, no third party money transfers.
• Official website