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BBB offers advice to donors after Orlando tragedy

Volunteers unload cases of water and sports drinks to be donated to victims families of a shooting involving multiple fatalities at a nightclub, Sunday, June 12, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Volunteers unload cases of water and sports drinks to be donated to victims families of a shooting involving multiple fatalities at a nightclub, Sunday, June 12, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) (Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved)

ROANOKE (WSLS 10) -  The Better Business Bureau Serving Western Virginia wants donors to know how to avoid common scams that appear during times of grief.

"Unfortunately, scam artists prey off of the emotions that prompt people to give," said Julie Wheeler, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Western VA. "Take your time, do your homework and research the organization or group you wish to donate to.

Here are some tips from the BBB about donations:

  • Anyone can set up a crowd-funding account. Make sure you know where the money is going.
  • Donations made through crowd-funding campaigns are considered to be personal gifts and are not guaranteed to be tax-deductible
  • Watch out for general requests that don't clearly state how the funds will be used.
  • Some families may decide to set up their own assistance funds. Be mindful that such funds may not be set up as charities.
  • Never click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites or in texts or emails. These may take you to a fake site where you will be asked to provide personal financial information.
  • Not all organizations collecting funds are tax exempt as charities under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Virginia requires charities to be registered with the Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs before soliciting donations. BBB says there are about 25,000 charities currently registered in Virginia. Click here to find out if the charity you are giving to is registered.

You can learn about Florida-based charities by calling 1-800-HELP-FLA to see if it's registered.  BBB says If the charity is not registered, use caution.