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BBB: What to keep in mind when donating to Gaylord recovery funds

The Better Business Bureau says anyone interested in supporting crowdfunding campaigns should keep an eye out for scams.

GAYLORD, Mich. — On Friday, an EF-3 tornado struck Gaylord, killing two people and injuring 44. The storm left dozens of businesses and homes destroyed. After two days of search and cleanup efforts, the community is beginning to rebuild.

If you're looking for ways to help the recovery process, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is encouraging you to keep an eye out for scams and make sure your money is going to the right people.

"Only donate to charities and fundraisers put on by organizations you know and trust," says Lisa Frohnapfel, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan. "Make sure the charity or organization actually has the means to provide relief to the community, in order to avoid scammers looking to take advantage of the situation." 

The BBB recommends donating to trusted charities like the Otsego County United Way and American Red Cross-Michigan Region.

With crowdfunding being a popular way to raise money, the BBB says you should do the following to protect yourself when donating:

  • Give to people and organizations you know. The BBB says donating to people you personally know is always the safest option—but if you want to donate anyway, you should try to find posts managed by trustworthy organizations.
  • Not all crowdfunding sites operate alike. Do your research on crowdfunding websites. Some platforms have stricter vetting processes than others.
  • See if the posting describes how funds will be used. The BBB says posts with vague detail or no description of what the donations will be used for should be considered untrustworthy. 
  • Don’t assume pictures represent an official connection to the person or family identified. Some untrustworthy posts may use photos of those in need without their permission. Different crowdfunding platforms have different regulations on photos.

In addition, the BBB says GoFundMe has specialists monitoring all posts about the Gaylord tornado and are ensuring donations go to the correct people.

To report a suspicious donation post to the BBB, click here. The BBB offers other crowdfunding tips here.

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