Tips to avoid scams as you donate to disaster relief

AUSTIN (KXAN) — With more than 32,000 people forced into shelters following Hurricane Harvey, thousands of people around Texas and the nation want to help. While this is the perfect time to donate, it’s also the perfect time for scammers to take advantage of generosity.

There are two considerations for people who want to help, according to Better Business Bureau Chief Marketing Officer Erin Dufner. The first is to decide what kind of giving to participate in — whether to donate money, food, clothes or other essential items. Then, people need to do their research about the charities they want to support.

Dufner said its important to look for charities with experience in disaster relief that have “boots on the ground” and know what each community specifically needs. She also said it’s OK to take some time to find the right organization to help.

“You know, it’s OK to wait for the next week or two and then decide,” Dufner said. “There may be completely different needs two or three weeks down the road.”

People should be wary of calls or people going door-to-door asking for money, especially if they won’t be specific about the charity itself and how much money goes to support disaster victims. Dufner says to skip GoFundMe efforts unless they can be verified.

The BBB said flood victims looking to rebuild should start by contacting their insurance company and coordinating efforts with them. People should make sure they don’t give too much to contractors up front.

As people do their research, they can use the BBB’s online tool at give.org to look up different charities and how the BBB rates them. It also shows how much money goes to the administrative fees, funding and the actual cause.

People can also report scams to the BBB.

“If you don’t have food or money or anything like that to donate — just keeping our eyes and ears open can be one of the best things we can give to these victims in these devastated areas,” Dufner said.

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