BBB Tip: Good News on Senior Citizens Day!

August 21st is National Senior Citizens Day in the U.S., and Better Business Bureau has some great news: the stereotype of the “little old lady” as scam victim is wrong. BBB research shows that seniors are less likely to be victims of scams because they are more likely to recognize a scam when they see one.

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Seniors have gotten the message, loud and clear, that scammers target them, especially for investment scams, tech support scams and imposter scams (“Grandmas, I’ve been arrested in Mexico. Please send money!”). Seniors are doing their homework to become educated about con artists and their tactics. Even more surprising, young people – despite their tech-savvy nature – are more vulnerable to scams than seniors.

The research was conducted by the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust (BBB Institute) and is available at BBB.org/TruthAboutScams. BBB surveyed more than 2,000 adults in the U.S. and Canada. Questions were about the respondents’ perceived vulnerability to scams, who they think is most likely to be scammed, and about the factors that helped them to avoid being scammed. The participants did not know that BBB was the sponsor of the survey.

Stereotypes usually paint scam victims as vulnerable and elderly, or gullible and poorly educated, but those assumptions are wrong. Everyone is at risk but, surprisingly, younger and more educated individuals are actually the most likely to be scammed. Marketplace scams affect one in four North American households each year at an estimated loss to individuals and families of $50 billion, yet most consumers believe they are invulnerable.

“Optimism bias” is the idea that other people are more vulnerable than we are, and it’s associated with risk-taking and failure to pay attention to precautionary advice. It’s one of the reasons young people are more vulnerable to scams than seniors. Seniors may also be less impulsive than younger consumers, and less likely to make online purchases (or exercising more caution when they do, such as researching a company first or only shopping at familiar websites).

More than 35,000 people have reported scams to BBB Scam Tracker since it was launched in 2015. Analysis shows that the top five scams that target seniors age 65 and older, and how often they are conned, are:

Tax Collection Scam: more than 2,400 reported to Scam Tracker, fewer than 1% lost money
Sweepstakes/Lottery/Prizes Scam: more than 800 reported, 10% lost money
Tech Support Scam: more than 500 reported, 30% lost money
Debt Collections: nearly 250 reported, 2% lost money
Government Grants: close to 200 reported, 6% lost money

Although seniors are the most scam-savvy group, too many are still losing money. BBB reminds seniors – and all consumers – to be cautious whenever someone you don’t know asks for money, personally identifying information, access to your computer or records, etc. Report scams to BBB Scam Tracker at BBB.org/ScamTracker. Research businesses at BBB.org.

BBB Tips to Ensure Wise Giving on Memorial Day

On Memorial Day, the holiday that seeks to pay tribute to those who gave their lives serving in the military, many of us will pay respects to those who died by responding to requests for donations by veterans and military-affiliated organizations.  “As with any charity appeal, we urge donors to exercise caution and do some research before making a giving decision,” recommends H. Art Taylor, President and CEO, BBB Wise Giving Alliance, “Donation requests by veterans groups are high around the Memorial Day holiday.”

As potential donors respond to appeals from such organizations, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers the following advisory tips:

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Ecuador Earthquake Donation Tips

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With hundreds killed and thousands injured by the devastating earthquake in Ecuador over the weekend, generous Americans are already seeking ways to support those in need through donations. BBB Wise Giving Alliance advises donors to avoid being taken advantage of by questionable solicitations or wasting their money on poorly managed relief efforts.

“The news out of Ecuador is heartbreaking,” said H. Art Taylor, president and CEO of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. “People want to help as soon as possible, and that is wonderful, but donors need to follow some key rules about supporting disaster relief so that their gifts get to those who need them most.”

Across the world, relief and development organizations and governments have begun responding to the earthquake in Ecuador. American charities have also begun accepting donations to assist in the region. BBB WGA suggests that before you choose a charity to give to, read this Disaster Relief Donations tip (below) and remember to check out the charity on Give.org.

BBB WGA has a list of nationally soliciting charities that have been accredited by BBB WGA (i.e., meet all 20 BBB Charity Standards), and indicate that they are collecting contributions to assist Ecuador relief efforts. The list, which will be updated as more charities join the efforts, is available at bbb.org/ecuador

BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers donors these tips for disaster relief giving:

Be cautious when giving online. Be cautious about spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. If you want to give to a charity involved in relief efforts, go directly to the charity’s website.

Rely on expert opinion when it comes to evaluating a charity. Be cautious when relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers or other websites, as they may not have fully researched the relief organizations they list. The public can go to www.give.org to research relief organizations and other charities to verify that they are accredited by the BBB which means they meet the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.

Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims. Despite what an organization might claim, charities have fund raising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee. If a charity claims 100 percent of collected funds will be assisting earthquake victims, the truth is that the organization is still probably incurring fund raising and administrative expenses. It may use some of its other funds to pay these costs, but the expenses will still be incurred.

Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas. Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to bring in new aid workers to provide assistance quickly. See if the charity’s website clearly describes what the charity can do to address immediate needs.

Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups. Some charities may be raising money to pass along to relief organizations. If so, you may want to consider “avoiding the middleman” and giving directly to those that have a presence in the region. Or, at a minimum, check out the ultimate recipients of these donations to see whether they are equipped to provide aid effectively.

Gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations. In-kind drives for food and clothing, while well intentioned, may not necessarily be the quickest way to help those in need – unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to distribute such aid properly. Ask the charity about its transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado Named March Nonprofit of the Month

Congratulations to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado for being named our March BBB Nonprofit of the Month! Currently operating out of offices in Denver and Colorado Springs, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado has helped young people overcome tremendous obstacles to become stable, successful adults.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America has been the national leader in youth mentoring since its founding in 1904 in New York City. In Colorado, the history began in 1918 with Claude Blake, chief probation officer in Denver, who watched wartime conditions cause an increase in lawlessness among boys in his community. Recognizing that these boys needed guidance more than critics, Blake established Big Brothers of Denver.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado has been a BBB Accredited Charity for 12 years, meeting all 20 Standards for Charity Accountability. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado won the BBB Torch Award for Marketplace Trust in the nonprofit category in 2013.

BBB Serving Denver/Boulder charity review program was developed to help donors make informed giving decisions and to promote high standards of conduct among organizations that solicit contributions from the public. BBB reviews 501(c)(3) tax exempt organizations using the BBB Standards or Charity Accountability. These standards go beyond the requirements of local, state, and federal laws and regulations and cover four areas:

  • Governance and Oversight
  • Measuring Effectiveness
  • Finances
  • Fund Raising and Informational Materials

“Through their continued mission of providing youth with mentoring relationships to help them to improve their sense of self, form positive relationships and achieve educational success, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado is a shining example of a nonprofit that is truly impacting the future of our community and the generations to come,” says Adriana Carmona, BBB Denver/Boulder Nonprofit Program Director

In recognition of the Charity of the Month honor, BBB compiled a short video about Big Brother Big Sisters of Colorado. The video can be found on the BBB Denver/Boulder YouTube page at https://youtu.be/7GwJaTT74MQ.

For more information on Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado, visit http://www.biglittlecolorado.org/ or call 303.433.6002. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado is located at 1391 Speer Blvd Ste 450 in Denver, CO 80204.

OUR Center Named BBB’s Nonprofit of the Month for February

BBB serving Denver/Boulder is pleased to congratulate Outreach United Resource (OUR) Center for being named the February Nonprofit of the Month. OUR Center was founded in 1986 and grew out of the Longmont Ministerial Association when church leaders agreed that uniting community resources would give better help to those who needed it.  The OUR Center works closely with many other agencies in the community to assist those in need, especially those in emergency situations. In 2014, the OUR Center served 120,696 meals and distributed 934,700 pounds of emergency groceries to 16,392 households.

OUR Center has been a BBB Accredited Charity since 2004, meeting all 20 Standards for Charity Accountability. OUR Center won the BBB Torch Award for Marketplace Trust in the nonprofit category in 2012.

BBB Serving Denver/Boulder charity review program was developed to help donors make informed giving decisions and to promote high standards of conduct among organizations that solicit contributions from the public. BBB reviews 501(c)(3) tax exempt organizations using the BBB Standards or Charity Accountability. These standards go beyond the requirements of local, state, and federal laws and regulations and cover four areas:

  • Governance and Oversight
  • Measuring Effectiveness
  • Finances
  • Fund Raising and Informational Materials

“The OUR Center is truly a community-based agency which aligns perfectly with the mission and vision of BBB. Not only does the OUR Center help provide people with clothing and food, but with shelters, child care, transportation, job assistance and more. The OUR Center is a wonderful example of how an organization can impact thousands of people’s lives through community passion, dedication and faith; we are proud to be able to honor them,” says Adriana Carmona, BBB Denver/Boulder Nonprofit Program Director

For more information on OUR Center, visit http://ourcenter.org or call 303.772.5529. OUR Center is located at 303 Atwood Street, Longmont, CO 80501.

Getting your Ducks in a Row: Writing an Effective Marketing Plan

Google recently stated that “Every 2 days, humans produce as much info as produced by all mankind for the 20,000 years leading up to 2003.” Two days?! That’s crazy! So how exactly do you distinguish yourself through all the buzz, trends and confusion?

Mike Sukle, Creative Director and President of Sukle Advertising & Design presented recently at one of our ROI Series workshops and gave his two-cents on just how to create your strategy for effective marketing.

His first suggestion? Focus on IMPACT. You may have an unlimited budget for advertising, but throwing the money at every piece of media just because you have the resources, doesn’t mean you should. It is better to do a few things well, than spread yourself too thin… and this all leads to your brand equity.

Steps:

  1. Establish Objectives
    1. What exactly are you trying to solve? It is an awareness campaign, a goal of increasing revenue on x service or product, gaining more social media followers?
  2. Understand your Target Audience
    1. Learn your consumer
      1. Gender, age, income, location, etc…these are your metrics
      2. What kind of preferences do they have or problems can your company specifically solve?
  • A great way of gaining insight: send out email surveys, have comment cards at your office/store, ask them to write a review.
  1. Define the key touch-points
    1. Where does your brand come into contact with the consumer? You want to make sure any time you are interacting with the consumer, that it is an experience, and a good experience as that will build your brand loyalty.
      1. At your store
      2. On the radio
      3. In the morning, in the afternoon, commuting times
      4. On the phone
      5. Seasonally
      6. Social media
  1. Track and Evaluate
    1. Is or did the marketing work?
    2. What is the ROI that we received?
    3. What do you want to measure?
      1. This goes back to your objectives…were they met?
      2. Using Google Analytics is an awesome tool!

Check out this video from our ROI: Marketing 101 for more tips!

Tax Break Tips

April 15th: It’s the 105th day of the year, it’s Leonardo Da Vinci’s birthday, and it’s also Titanic Remembrance day (who knew?). But for most people, April 15th is dreaded tax day, where everyone must have their income taxes filed. If you are part of the 83% of Americans, who donated $358.38 billion(!!!) to charities in 2014, there are specific tax benefits that can help put money back in your pocket. While filing your taxes may be stressful, the BBB is here to help you on how to get the most out of your charitable contribution. Below are some tips on common deductibility questions.

General overview                     Leo Tossing Money

  • Only itemizers can deduct contributions. Contributions are deductible for the year in which they are actually paid or delivered. Pledges are not deductible until the year in which they are paid.
  • Direct contributions to needy individuals are not deductible. To be tax deductible, contributions must be made to qualified organizations.
  • Keeping records of contributions is essential for itemizers. Acceptable records include bank records and written communications from the charity. Contributions of over $250 require a contemporaneous written acknowledgment from the charity.
  • There are over 20 categories of tax-exempt status. In general, only organizations classified as 501(c)3 and 501(c)19 are eligible to receive contributions deductible as charitable gifts.

Charity Auctions, Dinners, Galas, and Balls  

Rihanna in big dress

  • The general rule of thumb is that only the amount above the fair-market-value of your auction purchase would be deductible as a gift.
  • For example: at a fundraising event conducted by a charity, you pay $1,000 for a week’s stay at a beach house. The fair market value of this vacation is $600. Therefore, only $400 of the purchase would be deductible in this circumstance.
  • If you buy a ticket to a dinner for $100 and a similar meal at the hotel is $25, then only $75 dollars is deductible.
  • Some events may be very expensive, so if you don’t feel comfortable spending large sums of money on a dinner, you always have the option of making a direct donation, instead of attending the event.

Thrift Stores

Macklemore dancing in Thrift Shop

  • Determine whether your goods are in good used condition, and if it’s something the organization accepts.
  • Make a list of the items you’re donating.
  • Be sure to get a receipt from the organization to which you donate.
  • If you donate an Item valued at over $500 it may be in “fair” condition, but you will need to include a qualified appraisal with your tax return. For any noncash contribution over $500 you will need to complete and attach IRS form 8283 on your next tax return.

Car Donations

Dog looking at Car

  • If you are not familiar with the charity that is soliciting, check its website and see how the donation will benefit the organization. Sometimes the names of well know nonprofits are used without permission.
  • Verify that the recipient is tax-exempt as a 501c3 nonprofit, and check the IRS guidelines on vehicle deductions(publication 4303)
  • If you are claiming a car donation of over $500, you will need to complete and attach form 8283. If the car is worth more than $5,000, you will need to get a written professional appraisal. Many taxpayers find appraisers by contacting local car dealers.
  • Make sure the title of the car is transferred to the charity’s name, not an individual, and keep a copy for record.

 

BBB always encourages consumers to do their research before making any donations to charities. If you are looking for a charity to donate to, or if you are looking for assistance during tax season, check out findacompany.org for Accredited organizations who adhere to BBB’s eight standards for trust.