KFOX14 Investigates: Harvey charity scams

The Better Business Bureau is warning of hurricane donation scams. (KFOX14)

Texas is reeling from Harvey and with so much devastation, donations are crucial.

But this is also the time to be careful about where you send your money.

Every time there’s a major disaster, there are people towho try to profit off the tragedy.

KFOX14Investigates spoke with the experts about how to avoid becoming a victim and how to make sure your money really goes to those in need.

“Unfortunately people do take advantage of these situations,” said Marybeth Stevens, president of the El Paso Better Business Bureau.

While tens of thousands of Texans have been displaced by Harvey, millions of dollars in donations are pouring in to help.

But some are looking to cash in.

Stevens said be careful who you give your money to.

“The number one thing is to look for trusted organization,” said Stevens.

In the wake of Harvey, the Federal Trade Commission has also issued a warning about charity scams.

In the next few days or weeks; you may receive phone calls, text messages, emails or see social media posts from people asking you to donate

Watch out for:

Any organization that cannot provide detailed information on its mission or how the money will be spent; Won't give proof the contribution is tax deductible.

“If they don’t have that, that’s a red flag. There are enough organizations that are legitimate that are having a direct impact right now and you can contribute there,” said Stevens.

Look out for a charity that uses a name similar to a reputable charity.

Look out for charities only asking for cash or money wires.

“Don’t give cash to really, anyone, anytime,” said Stevens.

Also, any organization that guarantees sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a donation is a scam.

If you are getting pressured to donate immediately, hang up and tell them you'll call back.

“It’s a huge red flag absolutely,” said Stevens.

When deciding where to contribute:

– Use charities you know.

– Be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight.

– Make sure to designate the disaster.

That means, writing a check specifically for Harvey relief, so that your money doesn't end up going to a general fund .

Never click on links in e-mails from organizations you don't know; it could be a phishing scam.

Also be careful with crowd funding sites like GoFundMe. Unless you know the people directly.

“We urge you to do it to people that you know because unfortunately, bad actors will pop up,” said Stevens.

Also find out if the organization you are donating to is raising money to give directly to relief or if they are going to give it to other organizations

“If you can contribute directly to the organizations that are on the ground, your money will go further,” said Stevens.

If you choose to give:

– Keep a record of your donation.

“A paper trail is very important,” said Stevens.

– Don’t rush to choose the right charity, because rebuilding will take time.

Your generosity will be needed for months to come.

“It's always in the moment when hearts open up, please keep them open for a very long time. its going to be a long road,” said Stevens.

The Better Business Bureau also has a list of reputable charities they’ve already vetted so you can feel safe donating.

If you come across fundraising efforts you think might be suspicious, reach out to KFOX14 Investigates and we will look into it for you.

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