Seeing images of the devastation left behind Hurricane Harvey will cause many Americans to seek out charitable organizations that can help storm and flood victims in Texas. As with any major disaster, considerable funds will funnel from generous donors to affected areas. Also with any major disaster, scammers will prey on donor benevolence in hopes of siphoning off much needed disaster relief for themselves.
To help ensure that your donations do the good they were designated for, and not line the pockets of unsympathetic con men, the BBB encourages you to follow these tips.
1. Don't give your personal information over the phone (when they call you). Scams sometimes claim to be legitimate charities. You can't know who the person on the other end of the phone is unless you initiate the call. Even if you're prepared to give a charity your donation, don't give your credit card or account numbers to someone who calls you. Politely inform the solicitor that you will donate through a secure website or will call back at the toll-free number listed on an official website.
2. Don't be pressured to donate. You needn't feel obligated to donate to a charity simply because they call you. Perhaps you have another charity in mind or wish to speak to your spouse first. Any reason you have for not donating to a charity is good enough because it's your money to do with as you please. Take your time and don't let anyone lead you into doing something with which you're not comfortable.
3. Make sure you know who you're dealing with. Many scams adopt names that are strikingly similar to legitimate charities in an attempt to confuse donors. Sometimes scams will use a name that only rearranges the exact same words from the name of another charity, causing online search engines to return results for the legitimate charity. If a charity calls you, write down their name exactly so that you can check them out later.
4. Check out the charity. Just because an organization considers itself charitable and has 501(c)3 status, doesn't mean it's good. Make sure the charity you plan on donating to is reputable. The BBB has 20 standards for charity accountability that give consumers a better understanding of how a charity operates. Consumers can also check Guidestar and Charity Navigator for additional information on charities.
5. Don't donate to jars. When someone asks for donations to be put in a large jar, you're better off avoiding it. Donors have no way of confirming where that money goes. Perhaps the money in the jar will be passed along to an excellent charity with a stellar reputation in disaster relief efforts. Or, maybe, it's being dumped into a scammer's sock drawer. You'll never know after you drop money in. Find out if the charity the group is fundraising for and consider giving directly to the If an organization asks for money.
For additional tips on donating to reputable disaster relief charities, click here.