Mike Timmermann, Clark.com
People across the country and around the world are opening up their wallets to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey.
Unfortunately, there are always criminals who exploit natural disasters by creating fraudulent emails, social media campaigns and websites to solicit contributions — they even go door-to-door.
If you suspect a scam, report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud at (866) 720-5721 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to help storm victims without getting ripped off
Before making a donation of any kind, the Department of Justice shared these guidelines:
1. Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming e-mails, including clicking links contained within those messages, because they may contain computer viruses.
2. Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as members of charitable organizations or officials asking for donations via e-mail or social networking sites.
3. Beware of organizations with copy-cat names similar to but not exactly the same as those of reputable charities.
4. Rather than follow a purported link to a website, verify the legitimacy of nonprofit organizations by utilizing various Internet-based resources that may assist in confirming the group’s existence and its nonprofit status.
5. Be cautious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files because the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
6. To ensure contributions are received and used for intended purposes, make contributions directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf.
7. Do not be pressured into making contributions; reputable charities do not use such tactics.
8. Be aware of whom you are dealing with when providing your personal and financial information. Providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.
9. Avoid cash donations if possible. Pay by credit card or write a check directly to the charity. Do not make checks payable to individuals.
10. Legitimate charities do not normally solicit donations via money transfer services. Most legitimate charities’ websites end in .org rather than .com.
You can research you favorite charities and learn how much of your donation will go to the intended purpose (compared to how much will go to overhead) at Give.org, CharityWatch.org and CharityNavigator.org.
Read more: The best ways to help the victims of Harvey