October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and many businesses are marketing products and services donned with pink ribbons to show financial support for breast cancer charity groups and organizations. While this is a legitimate practice, be on the lookout for dishonest businesses who claim to support breast cancer research or services through the purchase of pink products but pocket the donations instead. The Better Business Bureau serving Central East Texas advises consumers to research pink product and charity claims before making a purchase or donation.

Since the pink ribbon is not trademarked, any company or charity can use pink or a pink ribbon on their products. That’s why it’s important to confirm whether or not a business’ claim to partner with a charity is legitimate before making a pink purchase.

The BBB recommends consumers take the following steps to ensure their donations go where they are needed:

Investigate. Remember to read labels on products carefully for disclosure of information. If you can’t find information, contact the business directly and ask the following questions: What portion of the purchase price will be donated to the charity? When will the charity receive the donated amount? What exactly is being funded? Are donations to the charity from the business capped? When is the last day to donate? Confirm the charity’s corporate partners. Many national breast cancer charities list corporate partners and sponsors on their website. Check to make sure the business you’re purchasing from is associated with the charity.

Use your head as well as your heart. Think about the product that you are purchasing. Is it something that you want or need? If the answer is no, then consider making a donation directly to the breast cancer charity of your choice. That way you know exactly how much money is going to the charity of your choice.

Keep an eye out for copycat charities. In 2015, about a half a dozen charities were charged with swindling nearly $200 million from donors. Make sure your donations go to the right place. If you suspect a scam involving a “look-a-like” charity, do not give. Be watchful for names, logos, slogans or colors that are similar to the legitimate charity. Be wary of bold claims such as “100 percent of donations will go to the charity.” This is not true since all charities have fundraising, program and administrative costs. Be wary of vague claims, such as “all proceeds go to charity” or “your purchase will benefit a charity.” Also keep in mind that when donating to crowdfunding sites, it’s often difficult for donors to verify the trustworthiness of those requesting assistance. To avoid giving to a fraudulent charity, go to Give.org.

For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer or to share your experience with a business, go to bbb.org. To report a fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, call the BBB at 903-581-5704 or report it via BBB Scam Tracker.

Mechele Agbayani Mills is president and CEO of the BBB Serving Central East Texas.

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