BBB: Be wary of scams while donating after fires in Australia

BBB warns consumers to be wary of scams when donating to fire relief efforts in Australia

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - CBS News is reporting that nearly 28 million acres have burned because of bush fires across Australia; that covers an area almost the size of Louisiana.

Now, a new method of trying to help is popping up around the capital city.

People in Baton Rouge have probably seen new digital billboards across the Red Stick encouraging people to help Australia, along with a link for where to donate, but there are some warning signs one should look for before donating to any charity.

One Baton Rouge organization already has boots on the ground in Australia trying to help.

After months of burning, the fires in Australia have destroyed around 2,000 homes, left at least 25 people dead, and killed billions of animals.

“Right now we are in Geelong, Victoria, Australia, and we are about to go out with the team to bring much needed supplies to wildlife carers. Those are people who take care of animals during these devastating times in Australia,” said Gabe Ligon, the owner of Barn Hill Preserve in East Feliciana Parish.

Ligon arrived in Australia days ago to help out with wildlife rescues.

"So we're packing the big 'horse float' that we got here full of supplies for all the injured and burned down wildlife shelters that we're going to help out with. We're also getting everything packed so that we can go rescue animals and treat them as well," said Jacob, an Australian native helping out with Ligon.

Ligon is working with a number of locals to try to get supplies to East South Wales, where most of the fires are burning.

“We also have sheets, medical equipment. We have towels, we have medical supplies, baby wipes, baby tissues for the baby joeys and pinkies,” said Jodi, an Australian local.

They’re still in need of more supplies.

Recently across Baton Rouge, billboards are asking for your money to help out our friends in Australia.

While the site, www.wires.org.au, is a legitimate, trusted charity, experts warn that scammers could be looking to take advantage of a tragic situation.

“The main thing is if you give and it makes you feel good, but the money didn’t go to the cause, you’ve defeated the purpose of giving,” said Carmen Million with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Million says its okay to give, but make sure to really investigate first.

“Usually organizations will be .org or .gov, but you want to make sure there’s addresses, there’s phone numbers, there’s information that will allow you to investigate it,” said Million.

Make sure to use a credit card as well when giving so you can dispute the charge if you get scammed.

Former LSU punter, Brad Wing, is helping to promote Barn Hill Preserve’s efforts. On Friday, Jan. 17, Barn Hill is hosting a kangaroo yoga class to raise money for supplies.

If you would like to donate to the cause, click here. There is also an Amazon wishlist full of needed supplies.

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