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How to make sure your donations goes to Orlando shooting victims

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ORLANDO, FLORIDA - JUNE 12: Orlando police officers seen outside of Pulse nightclub after a fatal shooting and hostage situation on June 12, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. The suspected shooter, Omar Mateen, was shot and killed by police. 50 people are reported dead and 53 were injured. (Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)

More than $2 million in donations have been raised for victim’s families, since 49 people were killed, and 53 were injured a Sunday morning attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

The shooting is the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

Now, the Better Business Bureau is cautioning donors about potential fundraising red flags and how to avoid those seeking to take advantage of your generosity during this tragedy.

“Tragedy inspires people to give, and this terrible tragedy is drawing incredible response already from people all around the world” said H. Art Taylor, President & CEO, BBB Wise Giving Alliance “The best way to help the victims, their families, and the people of Orlando is to make sure that donations end up where they belong. We are already hearing about click-bait schemes and questionable solicitations, and we expect there will be numerous scams and frauds. We urge those generous donors to give wisely so their gifts can do the most good.”

Equality Florida, the largest LGBT rights group in the state, posted the GoFundMe fundraiser for families of shooting victims, shortly after the Sunday morning shooting. By Monday afternoon, more than 51,000 people have donated over $2 million dollars.

The BBB Wise Giving Alliance constructed these 10 tips for giving with confidence in wake of potential scams:

1. Thoughtful Giving

Take the time to check out the charity to avoid wasting your generosity by donating to a questionable or poorly managed effort. The first request for a donation may not be the best choice. Be proactive and find trusted charities that are providing assistance.

2. Government Registration

About 40 of the 50 states in the U.S. require charities to register with a state government agency (usually a division of the State Attorney General’s office) before they solicit for charitable gifts (in Canada, charities register with the Canada Revenue Agency.) If the charity is not registered, that may be a significant red flag.

3. Respecting Victims and Their Families

Organizations raising funds should get permission from the families to use either the names of the victims and/or any photographs of them. Some charities raising funds for the Colorado movie theater victims did not do this and were the subject of criticism from victims’ families.

4. How Will Donations Be Used?

Watch out for vague appeals that don’t identify the intended use of funds. For example, how will the donations help victims’ families? Also, unless told otherwise, donors will assume that funds collected quickly in the wake of a tragedy will be spent just as quickly. See if the appeal identifies when the collected funds will be used.

5. What if a Family Sets Up Its Own Assistance Fund?

Some families may decide to set up their own assistance funds. Be mindful that such funds may not be set up as charities. Also, make sure that collected monies are received and administered by a third party such as a bank, CPA or lawyer. This will help provide oversight and ensure the collected funds are used appropriately (e.g., paying for funeral costs, counseling, and other tragedy-related needs.)

6. Advocacy Organizations

Tragedies that involve violent acts with firearms can also generate requests from a variety of advocacy organizations that address gun use. Donors can support these efforts as well but note that some of these advocacy groups are not tax exempt as charities. Also, watch out for newly created advocacy groups that will be difficult to check out.

7. Online Cautions

Never click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites or in texts or emails. These may take you to a lookalike website where you will be asked to provide personal financial information or to click on something that downloads harmful malware into your computer. Don’t assume that charity recommendations on Facebook, blogs or other social media have already been vetted.

8. Financial Transparency

After funds are raised for a tragedy, it is even more important for organizations to provide an accounting of how funds were spent. Transparent organizations will post this information on their websites so that anyone can find out and not have to wait until the audited financial statements are available sometime in the future.

9. Newly Created or Established Organizations

This is a personal giving choice, but an established charity will more likely have the experience to quickly address the circumstances and have a track record that can be evaluated. A newly formed organization may be well-meaning but will be difficult to check out and may not be well managed.

10. Tax Deductibility

Not all organizations collecting funds to assist this tragedy are tax exempt as charities under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code in the U.S. (the equivalent in Canada are charities registered with the Canada Revenue Agency). Donors can support these other entities but keep this in mind if they want to take a deduction for income tax purposes. In addition, contributions that are donor-restricted to help a specific individual/family are not deductible in the U.S. as charitable donations, even if the recipient organization is a charity.