Scam Alert: Credit Unions Urged to Warn Members about Bogus Disaster Relief Efforts

Northwest credit unions are being urged this week to warn their members about a wave of email scams that solicit the wiring of money to stranded victims in the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.

The Better Business Bureau joined Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Secretary of State Kim Wyman in reminding donors to give cautiously over the next few weeks.

“Our hearts go out to the families who have lost loved ones in this devastating storm,” says Tyler Andrew, CEO of the Better Business Bureau for Alaska, Oregon and western Washington. “However, it’s important for donors to understand that not all pleas for help are legitimate.”

Andrew, Ferguson and Wyman advised donors to take proactive steps to avoid being ripped off by questionable solicitors or wasting money on poorly-managed relief efforts.

“Unfortunately, scammers look to exploit our compassion for helping others during disasters,” Ferguson says. “Take time to research the charity you’d like to donate to, so that your hard-earned money reaches those in need, not a scammer’s wallet.”

He also urged donors to:

  • Avoid donating based on charity names: Avoid organizations that include the name of the storm or disaster — they may have just been founded and have little experience, or they may simply be trying to take advantage of highly-visible news coverage.
  • Avoid donating the wrong goods or products: Sending non-essential items could be a wasted effort and slow down the relief process. Be sure to verify which items are needed and the specific distribution plans that are in place. Some organizations may only accept clothing and goods from locations close to the disaster zone to avoid freight costs.
  • Steer clear of inexperienced relief efforts: Inexperienced charities will likely hamper assistance and divert funds from other helpful organizations.
  • Research before donating: Before responding to emails or social media posts soliciting money, check out organizations to verify accountability standards. Good intentions aren’t enough to carry out relief activities effectively; charities should be transparent, accountable and well-managed.

In the Northwest, credit unions are being urged to direct their own donations to the World Council of Credit Unions’ Philippine Disaster Relief Fund. Donations are being accepted by check, credit card or wire at Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions Inc., 5710 Mineral Point Road, Madison, WI 53705. Credit-card donations also can be made online at

The Northwest Credit Union Foundation joined the WOCCU effort last week, committing $5,000 to relief efforts.


For more information on how to make sure donations reach the intended relief effort, go to the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance’s Standards for Charity Accountability, the Washington attorney general’s Consumer Issues Charities page or the secretary of state’s Give Wisely page.

Questions? Contact Gary Stein: 503.350.2216,

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