Beware of Bogus Myanmar Charities

As people around the world respond to the devastation wrought by the cyclone that ripped through Myanmar on May 5, charity watchdog groups are warning donors about bogus charities that may pocket donations instead of sending the money to the people of Myanmar.

Daniel Borochoff of the American Institute of Philanthropy says that while there have not been reports of bogus charities so far, it may be too early to identify potential scams.

"There are groups that are raising money, asking for donations that do not have programs, and it's not even clear if they can get into the country," Borochoff told ABCNews.com. "We're cautioning donors to make sure they donate to organizations that they know can do something with the donations. Anybody can pretend to be someone else and get out there and raise money and give it to some other group."

The Better Business Bureau provides eight tips to guide Americans as they try to find reputable charities:
1.) Donate to organizations that are accredited by the Better Business Bureau and are experienced in handling donations in crises.
2.) Find out if the charity has on-the-ground presence in Myanmar.
3.) Find out who will benefit from the donations and what types of assistance they will be provided.
4.) Be cautious of charities that claim to donate 100 percent of their donations to Myanmar.
5.) Avoid the "middleman" and donate to charities that send donations straight to the victims. Don't donate to charities that claim to give the donations to another group.
6.) Avoid giving donations online.
7.) Avoid charities that ask for clothing or food because it is not practical to send those kinds of donations, and they will probably not be delivered to those in need.
8.) To ensure that your donation is tax-deductible, donate to domestic organizations.

Borochoff also says that donors should not respond to e-mails asking for donations, and that they should do research on the charity they wish to donate to. For more information on reputable charities, you can visit the American Institute of Philanthropy.

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