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Hurricane Fraud Alert: Watch Out for Phony Charities

FTC advises people to beware of scammers who claim to help victims

Harvey Recovery Scams

Jon Shapley/AP Images

Legitimate charities can be verified through the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.

When disaster strikes, many Americans are quick to help the victims. But in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) this week warned charitable Americans to be cautious of scams that turn donations into ill-gotten gains.

“If you’re looking for a way to give, be cautious of charity scams,” the agency advised. “Do some research to ensure that your donation will go to a reputable organization that will use the money as promised. Donate to charities you know and trust with a proven track record with dealing with disasters.”


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Be especially alert to charities that seem to spring up overnight in connection with a current event, the FTC added. Legitimate charities can be verified through the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch or GuideStar.

Other tips from the FTC:

  • Designate the disaster so you can ensure your funds are going to disaster relief rather than to a general fund.
  • Never click on links or open attachments in an email unless you know who sent it.
  • Don’t assume that charity messages posted on social media are legitimate.
  • When texting to donate, confirm the number with the source before you donate.
  • Find out if the charity or fundraiser must be registered in your state by contacting the National Association of State Charity Officials.
  • Victims of the storm and flooding are urged to contact their insurance companies to ask what steps should be taken to assess the damage.

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