How to avoid scams while donating to storm relief, buying festival tickets and merch: BBB

ByABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Sunday, April 2, 2023
How to avoid scams while donating to storm relief
Here's how to avoid scams while donating to storm damage relief efforts, according to the Better Business Bureau.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The devastation down south after last week's spate of deadly tornadoes has many people wanting to give back. But, tragedy is often a magnet for scammers who are looking to take advantage of people's generosity.

Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau, shared the organization's recommendations to avoid such pitfalls.

To help those seeking to support relief efforts, BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers the following tips:

  • Is the disaster relief appeal clear? Seek out appeals that are upfront and clear about what disaster relief services you are supporting.
  • Is the charity experienced in disaster relief? Support experienced organizations that stand ready to provide quick and effective assistance. Be cautious of organizations that form overnight in the wake of a disaster.
  • Should you donate goods? Donating money is the quickest way to help and provides charities the flexibility to channel resources to impacted areas. Instead of donating food, consider supporting food banks near an impacted area. Visit Feeding America, which works with food banks across the country.
  • What about crowdfunding requests? If engaging in crowdfunding, it is safest to give to someone you personally know and trust. Also review the platform's policies and procedures, keeping in mind that while some crowdfunding sites take measures to vet posts, others don't.

The following organizations are BBB-accredited charities currently announcing that they are collecting funds to assist tornado relief efforts:

And, as the weather warms up, door-to-door scams also come out of hibernation along with phony utility and security representatives.

This is also the season for home improvement tricks and the inevitable storm chasers.

The BBB says scammers are getting prepped tips:

  • Be wary of red flag high-pressure sales tactics, up-front fees, and handshake deals.
  • Anyone pressuring you to pay or sign a contract without allowing you to do your due diligence on and other sources is someone you most likely would not want to do business with.
  • Get a written contract with the price, materials, and timeline detailed. Illinois law requires a written contract for all projects costing $1,000 or more.
  • You can get multiple estimates in writing.
  • Never allow any strangers into your house unless you have vetted the company. Always alert neighbors, family, or friends if you have scheduled work to be done inside your home.

Spring also signals the return of outdoor festivities.

The excitement of baseball home openers and mega concerts in Chicago provides scammers with lucrative opportunities to steal fans' money, identity, tickets and fun. BBB also expects sweeping scam attempts because of this year's major artist lineup: Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Madonna, Dave Matthews, Bruce Springsteen and many more. Plus, Lollapalooza, Pitchfork, Ravinia, Summerfest and other venues are wildly popular. Many online platforms are already flooded with tickets for sale.

Here are BBB tips for baseball and concert fans to reduce your risk of money loss and identity theft:

  • Buy tickets at the box office or from the venue's official site, and be careful because imitation sites can appear first in internet searches.
  • Only deal with secure websites. These will begin with "HTTPS" and have a "lock" symbol on the address bar.
  • Fake websites will offer tickets at low prices to trick people into entering their credit card info. Scammers can then use your credit card to purchase big-ticket items. You never receive your ticket.
  • Counterfeit tickets with forged barcodes look very professional with a copy and pasted logo of the actual ticket company. You will be denied access when you arrive at the concert and the scammer is long gone.
  • Another devious trick: Fraudsters will copy and paste an actual ticket and then "sell" it to many purchasers, all of whom get a surprise at the gate when they learn the ticket is not valid.
  • Use extra caution buying tickets sold on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or other free online listings. Scammers are skilled at providing realistic tickets and fake receipts.
  • Use payment methods that come with protection. Always use a credit card, so you have some recourse if the tickets are not as promised. Debit cards, wire transfers, or cash transactions are money lost if the tickets are fraudulent.
  • Know the refund policy. Only purchase tickets from a ticket reseller that provides clear details about the transaction terms. Know what happens when an event cancels or changes dates.
  • Red flag: Scammers use high pressure to make fast sales knowing people are desperate to see the show.
  • Be very alert to high transaction fees on the final page of your purchase. Many low-rated ticket sellers collect all your information before indicating sometimes exorbitant fees at the end of the transaction.

For official Merchandise:

  • Only buy merchandise at the concert venue, ballpark or from authorized MLB vendors.
  • Know the refund policy. You should only purchase Merchandise from someone who discloses the terms and conditions of refunds or exchanges.
  • Be aware that unlicensed and unofficial clothing are often made from inferior materials that shrink and ink that might run and cause problems in the wash.