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Text Message Donation Advice

What Donors Need to Know Before Pressing 'Send'

Anchorage, Alaska - Jan. 25, 2010 - In response to appeals for charitable causes, a new movement in generous giving is sweeping the nation: Text message donations.

It was recently reported that U.S.-based cell phone users had already contributed millions of dollars towards Haiti disaster relief efforts using a Short Message Service (SMS). Additionally, an increasing number of mobile marketing companies (MMCs) and celebrities are encouraging donations from text messengers.

How it works: Donors are asked to send a text message to a phone number provided in an advertisement-usually, the message must include a word or numerical code to signify the cause or contribution amount. The donation is then charged to the donor's cell phone bill.

"Giving donations through a wireless device can be a fast, easy and relatively hassle-free option" said Robert W.G. Andrew, CEO of Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. "However, convenience shouldn't stop consumers from doing research before they press 'send.'"

BBB's Charity Review Program explores the potential pitfalls associated with text message contributions and offers advice on how to avoid hassles:

Timeliness - Text message donations may not reach the charity or organization immediately. Though major cell phone carriers are working to process donations quickly, there may be a lag time based on the high volume of donations received. To ensure funds are received instantly by the intended recipient, consider contacting the organization or charity directly; most accept donation payments online, over the phone or with a check by mail.

Recurring charges - Be careful not to inadvertently sign up for monthly charges if you're hoping to make a one-time donation. When vetting charitable appeals, thoroughly review and understand all terms and conditions. Monitor your billing statements for unauthorized expenses.

Affiliate marketers - When giving to a charity through text message, you could be signing yourself up to receive future phone calls, text message updates or other solicitations from the charity or its affiliated marketing companies. Carefully read the MMC's Web site for a privacy policy to find out if they will sell or redistribute your contact information. MMCs and charities should provide full information about their text message campaigns and opt-out methods to stop future communications.

Privacy - Like the internet, data breaches can occur and network security is not guaranteed when transferring data through a Short Message Service. Never send sensitive information via text message, such as Social Security or credit card numbers.

Trustworthiness - Donors should check to make sure that the charity and the MMC are legitimate and trustworthy before making a donation. Be wary of claims that 100% of the donation will go to "the cause," as charities may be spending a significant portion on promotions and fundraising expenses-possibly through campaigns and partnerships with MMCs.

Research businesses on the Internet; be wary if negative results appear. Search for BBB Reliability Reports on MMCs at www.bbb.org.

Verify the charity is properly registered with the state; charitable organizations soliciting in Alaska should be registered with the Alaska Department of Law. Get free Charity Reviews at www.bbb.org/charity to see if the organization meets BBB's 20 Standards for Charity Accountability, which includes information on how money is allocated. Click here for more BBB smart giving tips.

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About BBB Foundation:
BBB Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to educating consumers on marketplace issues. Programs offered by BBB Foundation serve: seniors, military communities, young consumers and consumers at large. BBB Foundation also assists donors in making informed judgments and setting forth suggested standards for charitable organizations. BBB Foundation is an affiliate of BBB serving Alaska, Oregon & Western Washington.

About your BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington:
Your Better Business Bureau is a not-for-profit organization funded by Better Business Bureau Accredited Businesses. The BBB's mission is to be the leader in advancing marketplace trust. For more information about the services and products provided by your BBB, call 206-431-2222 or 253-830-2924 in Washington, 503-212-3022 in Oregon, 907-562-0704 in Alaska, or visit our Web site at www.bbb.org.

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