Avoiding Scams While Helping Ukrainians

Thousands of Ukrainians are without food, power, or water and an estimated 2 million refugees have fled the country since the beginning of the Russian invasion, and people around the world are looking for ways they can help.  But before donating to relief efforts for Ukrainians, it’s important to do your homework to make sure the charity you select is legitimate and effective.  Sadly, scammers will use a crisis to take advantage of people and their desire to help others. 

According to a recent AARP report, the Better Business Bureau has some useful tips to make sure your funds are able to provide timely and effective help to those in need while protecting yourself from identity theft or fraud.  Even legit charities, if they don’t already have a presence in Ukraine, may not be able to provide relief quickly. 

Many organizations are trying to collect clothing and food for refugees but sending these goods overseas may not be practical. It takes time and manpower to collect, deliver and distribute goods to people in need.  Look for charities with experience in emergency relief that meet the BBB Standards for Charity Accountability

Crowdfunding appeals may not be the best or safest way to send help.  They are not well-vetted and it may not be clear what percentage of financial gifts actually get to the people in need.  According to the FBI, scammers often use high-profile tragedies to exploit people’s desire to help.  Avoid donating through charities soliciting on social media, or through cold calls, emails, or crowdfunding.  

Charity fraudsters will often use a copycat name similar to a reputable organization – watch out for these in emails or on social media websites and never provide personal information by email or phone.  Do not open or click on any links or email attachments from someone you don’t know.  And if you decide to make a donation, use a credit card or check; if someone asks you to donate using gift cards, virtual currency, a wire transfer, or cash, it’s almost certainly a scam. 

The Washington Post has created a list of legitimate organizations to help support Ukraine which includes Care and People in Need, Doctors Without Borders, International Committee of the Red Cross, Project Hope, Save the Children, and U.N. Crisis Relief.