Scam Alert

Gulf Coast Business Owners Beware BP Reimbursement Scams

Now that BP has started to pay claims, more than 40,000 Gulf Coast business owners and home owners have filed for reimbursement. Any time you’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars or more, its possible, even likely, that scam artists will try to claim their share.

Today, the Better Business Bureau put out this Scam Alert to warn Gulf Coast business owners to beware of companies offering to facilitate BP reimbursements.

Chicago, IL – June 15, 2010 – In the wake of any disaster many reach for their checkbooks to donate money and aid toward rescue organizations. The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance (WGA) cautions that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is unlike previous disasters and offers specific advice to potential donors and volunteers.

Anytime there is a major natural disaster, be it home or abroad, there are a few things you can count on. They include the generosity of individuals to donate time and money to help victims and the appearance of inexperienced and in some cases fraudulent charities. Any individual preparing to make a donation needs to be aware about avoiding fraud as well as ensuring the money goes to experienced relief organizations.

“Businesses, communities, individuals and wildlife have been seriously impacted by the spill and the need for assistance is great,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “Although tens of thousands of individuals are already involved in the oil spill response, the constraints in the clean up effort limit what charities can do with your money or how you can volunteer.”

The BBB Wise Giving Alliance recommends that donors and volunteers consider the following before offering time or money to disaster relief efforts:

Beware of Inexperienced Organizations. New non-profits and relief organizations spring up following any major disaster. While these groups might have good intentions, new charities responding to a crisis may lack the resources, experience and management needed to be effective. Ideally, look for established organizations with environmental expertise or previous experience aiding Gulf communities and that meet BBB standards.

Know Where Your Money Is Going. Find out how the organization plans to spend funds for Gulf relief and related activities. If a charity is raising money for other groups, you may want to consider “avoiding the middleman” and give directly to those performing the work.

Research Before You Donate. Visit first to verify that the charities are Accredited by the BBB and meet its 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.

Check If You Are Trained to Volunteer. If you’re looking to get your hands dirty, you may be out of luck unless you’re certified to handle hazardous materials or have received training to care for injured wildlife. Numerous charities with volunteer programs ask that you register with them so that they can assess your skills and place you appropriately when openings arise.

Do Not Feel Pressure to Donate Now. The Gulf region will be suffering from the effects of the oil spill for years to come and there will be opportunities for donors to step in and help in the future. If you can’t find a cause you can get behind right now, plan to revisit your donation in the coming months.

The websites of the following national charities describe activities that address the oil spill. This list only includes charities that meet the BBB WGA’s Standards for Charity Accountability. Click on each of the names to access a BBB charity report on the organization:

American Bird Conservancy

Defenders of Wildlife

Ducks Unlimited


Environmental Defense Fund

Friends of the Earth

Greenpeace Fund

International Fund for Animal Welfare

National Audubon Society

National Wildlife Federation

Natural Resources Defense Council

Nature Conservancy


For more information on charities or making wise donating decisions, visit