BBB Serving North Central Texas Cautions Residents to Beware of Charity Scams in the Wake of Hurricane Harvey

  
     
Want to help in recovery efforts? Learn how to avoid charity scams as Hurricane Harvey hits the southern coast of Texas for the second time.
August 30, 2017

Dallas, Texas -- Many Texans are heartbroken after category 4 Hurricane Harvey, with winds as high as 130 miles per hour, hit landfall. The hurricane brought devastating amounts of rain and flooding to the Texas cities of Corpus Christi, Houston, and inland to Austin and San Antonio over last weekend. An estimated 20 to 45 inches of rain will have fallen during its movement over the state, causing flooding and property damage, according to National Weather Service reports.

 

BBB Serving North Central Texas cautions anyone interested in charitable giving in the wake of recent weather disasters to be wary of scams. Fraudsters often prey on our generosity and look for easy ways to obtain donations. “People all over the country are charitable. We have already seen North Texas residents show solidarity to the families of victims of Hurricane Harvey,” says Phylissia Landix, VP of Public Relations and Communications for BBB North Central Texas. “But, if you do not check out the organizations prior to donating, you could lose money, or worse be the victim of ID theft.”

 

Scammers use emotional appeals to defraud well-intentioned individuals seeking to offer support and financial assistance to victims and their families. BBB Serving North Central Texas often observes an increase in scams, particularly on social media and sometimes crowdfunding sites, immediately after tragic events. We can also expect “storm chasers,” normally construction or clean-up crews, looking to profit quickly when storm victims begin recovery efforts.

 

According to BBB Scam Tracker, a free online tool that allows the public to report and track scams throughout North America, hundreds of charity-related scams have been reported online to BBB in the last two years. Collectively, citizens throughout North America told BBB that they lost thousands of dollars due to scams related to charity appeals. In many instances, these individuals are also vulnerable to identity theft. If you believe that you have fallen victim to a scam related to Harvey, please report your experience to BBB via Scam Tracker today.

 

Volunteering:

If you are looking for a way to help, the City of Dallas recently announced that it is preparing to host evacuees in the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. If nearby residents would like to volunteer, they should begin by visiting http://www.dallascitynews.net/help-impacted-hurricane-harvey.

If you would like to give donations, you may choose from this list of charities that are giving raising money for Hurricane Harvey victims, published by the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. The Wise Giving Alliance vets charities pursuant to BBB's Charity Standards.

 

BBB offers these tips to avoid charity scams online:

  • Verify the name. Many charities have similar names. Scammers may intentionally select a misleading name. Don’t respond immediately to a solicitation. You can always donate once you’re sure that you are giving to the correct charity.
  • Never click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites, in texts, or in emails. These links may take you to a look-a-like website where you will be prompted to provide personal financial information. Your information could be stolen.
  • Get proof of non-profit status. For-profit companies may pose as charitable organizations or mislead donors about how they use the funds that they collect. You can search for names on this list of tax-exempt organizations from the IRS.
  • Be careful with crowdfunding appeals. Online sites that allow you to set up a fund to benefit individuals, families, or organizations are often challenging to verify. Crowdfunding sites may have some safeguards, but they can’t screen out all fraud. It is safest to give directly to individuals that you know personally.
  • Read the fine print. Crowdfunding and charity sites often have privacy policies. Make sure that you understand under what conditions donations will be refunded (if at all), and whether the donor will be charged for administrative costs and credit card fees, and what those fees may be.

 

For more tips on spotting a charity scam, visit BBB Wise Giving Alliance. WGA provides information on individual charities. Learn more about what to ask before making a donation at give.org.

 

ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2016, people turned to BBB more than 167 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for the local, independent BBBs in the United States, Canada and Mexico, as well as home to its national and international programs on dispute resolution, advertising review, and industry self-regulation

 

ABOUT BBB WGA: BBB Wise Giving Alliance (BBB WGA) is a standards-based charity evaluator that seeks to verify the trustworthiness of charities by completing rigorous evaluations based on 20 holistic standards that address charity governance, results reporting, finances, fundraising, appeal accuracy and other issues. National charity reports are produced by the BBB WGA and local charity reports are produced by local Better Business Bureaus – all reports are available at Give.org.