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Buyer Beware: 'Pink washing' during Breast Cancer Awareness Month; the best and safest ways to shop and support a cause

Many companies use the color pink or the untrademarked pink ribbon on products during the month of October, but your money might not be going where you think.

CLEVELAND — The rush to raise money for breakthrough research for breast cancer comes alive during the month of October. However, not everything labeled with a pink ribbon may be donating to that cause.

Sadly, a disease that touches the lives of millions of women and their families is merely a marketing ploy for some companies.

"[It] is actually National Breast Cancer Awareness Month," Sarah Rosales, vice president of corporate partnerships for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, told 3News.

And as Breast Cancer Awareness Month kicks off, prepare to see pink planted across the shelves.

"[Consumers] want to believe that those products and those companies are donating back to the organization," Rosales said. "That's not always the case."

RELATED: 'TODAY' show helps 3News kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month in Cleveland

The Susan G. Komen foundation is the largest breast cancer organization in the United States. Rosales works directly with dozens of brands that in turn work to raise money or donate products to fight breast cancer.

"You’ll see [total] transparency with how much of your purchase price they're donating back to Komen," she explained.

Brands partnered with the foundation donate anywhere between 10 and 100 percent of their revenue, product, or service, according to Rosales.

"You just need to be an educated consumer," Erick Delworth, director of operations for the Cleveland Better Business Bureau, added.

But all the pink you purchase, labeled with a ribbon or not, isn't always donating with the amount claimed or where you think.

"Don't make assumptions that you can trust or that you know exactly what's happening with the money that you give," Delworth said.

He reminded consumers to beware of the different donation advertisements. They may come on the product you're looking for or when you check out. Remember those 'Would you like to round up?' last-minute asks?

"You need to ask that company that you're deciding to give your money to what the specifics [are] of the situation," Delworth said. "I think you need to be very careful."

"It makes it really confusing for consumers," Rosales concurred.

Making a buck off the color pink has been overtly commercialized during the month of October, steering the conversations away from the true message: The one in eight women who will be or have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

"It’s really important how significant this disease is," Rosales stated.

Delworth recommends donating directly to a charity if you really want to help a cause. Another tip: If you ask questions about where your money is going and aren't satisfied with the answer, you might be better off spending your money somewhere else.

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