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Watch Out for Phony Wildfire Charities

Scammers are using social media and fake websites to raise funds for those affected by the fires in Australia.

Photos of kangaroos and koalas fleeing the massive wildfires in Australia are heartbreaking, and many people want to help. But as is the case with past disasters, the catastrophe has proved irresistible to fraudsters. The Australia Competition and Consumer Commission has warned that scammers are using social media and fake websites to raise funds. Some have impersonated people who have been affected by the wildfires.

The wildfires have also generated thousands of pages on crowdfunding sites. Some are scams, while others are ill-conceived funding efforts, according to the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance. Some postings use pictures of victims without their permission. Appeals to help Australian firefighters should also be viewed with caution, the BBB says.

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Even if the crowdfunding appeal is le­gitimate, you generally can’t claim a tax deduction for a contribution that goes to an individual or family. Contributions to non-U.S. charities are usually not deductible, either. There are several U.S. charities that are accepting donations to help wildfire victims. Charities accredited by the BBB include the American Red Cross, Direct Relief, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

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