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CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8 | cbs8.com

Tips to avoid 'pink scams' during Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October marks Breast Cancer Awareness month to support those impacted by the disease, but experts say it’s also a time for scammers to target charities and donors.

SAN DIEGO — Better Business Bureau Regional Director Marilyn Huffman asks if you buy something that has a pink ribbon on it or is "pinked out," how much of that is actually going to the cause you want it to go to?

October is sometimes called "Pinktober" to highlight supporting Breast Cancer Awareness month, but the Better Business Bureau says scammers are also aware that many people want to give to the cause all month long.

"Scammers know that. They know that you are emotionally tied to what you're wanting to give to and they will use that against you,” said Huffman, who serves the BBB’s Pacific Southwest region.

ThinkBeforeYouPink.org says the Breast Cancer Action group coined the term "pinkwashing," where a company or organization claims to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product when in actuality it doesn’t.

"A lot of them will use names that are very similar or claim to be a specific company, but when actually you click on the link, it may take you to a scammer's website,” Huffman said.

How to spot the scheme? The BBB says go to Give.org and type in the charity’s name for yourself.

"You'll be able to search them out in the system and find out key information about them,” Huffman said.

Huffman also advises:

  • Do your research
  • Check if the website is secure
  • Avoid using debit cards

"In all honesty, to pay with a credit card does give you a little bit more protection or recourse if it turns out to be some kind of scam because you can report that to your credit card company and dispute those charges,” Huffman said.

Huffman says she is no stranger to the pink scams. Her mother is a breast cancer survivor and says she and her sister once donated to a top breast cancer charity that they later discovered mishandled the money.

“To find out you've been taken advantage of is heartbreaking. You could be like me, where you're watching the news one day, and you see it and say 'oh, I gave to that charity. I should've done my research. I should've looked into that just a little bit more before I gave my money.'"

With no in-person pink events and large fundraisers this year, charities are making the virtual plea to donors to help.

"Give locally. It's easier to see where your dollars are going if you give to a local charity,” Huffman said.