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Watch out: Scammers jumping in to make money from Hurricane Harvey

Hurrican HarveyPeople should help victims of Hurricane Harvey as much as they can, but they need to use caution and make sure their donations get to the people who need it most.

“The devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey prompts us to do what we can to help as soon as possible,” said H. Art Taylor, president and CEO of Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, “but donors need to be aware of some key cautions so that their generosity will get to those in need quickly.” 

BBBs are already seeing crowdfunding appeals of a dubious nature, and in the days ahead expect to see “storm chasers” looking to make a quick buck off of clean-up efforts (bbb.org/storm). Consumers can report suspected scams to the BBB Scam Tracker bbb.org/scamtracker, the Texas Attorney General’s hotline at 800-621-0508, or consumeremergency@nag.texas.gov.

The BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers the following tips to help avoid questionable appeals for support:

  • See if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas. Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to bring in new aid workers to provide assistance quickly. See if the charity’s website clearly describes what the charity can do to address immediate needs.
  • Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups. Some charities may be raising money to pass along to relief organizations. If so, you may want to consider “avoiding the middleman” and giving directly to those that have a presence in the region. Or, at a minimum, check out the recipients of these donations to see whether they are equipped to provide aid effectively.
  • Be cautious about gifts of clothing, food, or other in-kind donations. In-kind drives for food and clothing may not be the quickest way to help those in need – unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to distribute such aid. Ask the charity about its transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who aren’t experienced in disaster relief assistance.
  • Understand crowdfunding. Keep in mind that some crowdfunding sites do little vetting of individuals who decide to post for assistance after a disaster, and it’s often difficult for donors to verify the trustworthiness of crowdfunding requests for support. If you decide to contribute via crowdfunding, it’s best to give to people who you personally know that have posted requests for assistance.
  • Phases of disaster relief. Remember that every disaster has several phases – rescue, emergency relief, and recovery. Each part relies on public support and continuing funding for success. The need for donations doesn’t stop when the headlines do.
  • Recovery time line.For many communities, recovery will be a long-term activity that can take many months or years to accomplish, depending on the extent of the damage. Those truly concerned about helping communities bounce back will have many opportunities to help.

Here’s a list of BBB Accredited Charities, organizations that meet the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability that are raising funds for Hurricane Harvey relief assistance.

American Red Cross

AmeriCares

Church World Service

Direct Relief

GlobalGiving Foundation

Humane Society of the United States

Islamic Relief USA

MAP International

Operation USA

Salvation Army

Save the Children

United Methodist Committee on Relief

United Way of Greater Houston

Copyright 2017, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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