The Right Way to Help People Hit By Hurricane Harvey

Scam charities spring up overnight in response to current events. Here's what you must know to help organizations aiding victims of Hurricane Harvey -- or any other natural disaster.

The Right Way to Help People Hit By Hurricane Harvey Photo by AMFPhotography / Shutterstock.com

Days after Hurricane Harvey first made landfall, the storm continues to haunt coastal areas of Texas and Louisiana.

Currently a tropical storm, it’s forecast to hover into Wednesday, dumping more rain on the already waterlogged region. The Weather Channel reported Tuesday morning that major rivers will remain above flood stage into Labor Day weekend and possibly longer.

If you’re following the news, it’s hard not to feel bad for Harvey’s victims. But if you really want to help them, start by watching out for scams.

Specifically, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission warns consumers to be wary of charities that spring up in response to current events or natural disasters. So, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the FTC explains:

“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.”

To find out whether a charity or fundraiser must be registered in your state, contact the National Association of State Charity Officials. If a charity should be registered but is not, the FTC says you should consider donating to a different charity.

To evaluate a charity’s track record, look it up on the websites of organizations such as:

Charity Navigator, a nonprofit that evaluates and rates charities, has made it easy to identify legitimate charities that are helping Hurricane Harvey victims. Charity Navigator compiled a list of highly-rated charities that it says “are located in the most-affected areas and are providing support to individuals and animals.” They are:

  • Houston Food Bank
  • Food Bank of Corpus Christi
  • Houston Humane Society
  • Houston SPCA
  • San Antonio Humane Society

Charity Navigator notes that it’s not certain that all five of these charities will spend 100 percent of donations on Hurricane Harvey relief. The FTC suggests, however, that you designate the disaster toward which you want your donation to go, rather than sending money to a charity’s general fund.

If you would rather open your home to victims than open your wallet to a charity, note that Airbnb is matching up Hurricane Harvey evacuees with people willing to host evacuees for free.

If your property has been hit by the storm, try to focus on filing insurance claims. Dallas News reports that lawyers are urging affected Texas homeowners to file claims by Thursday due to a new state law going into effect Friday. The publication explains:

“Starting Sept. 1, House Bill 1774 becomes law in Texas, a measure that advocates for insurance companies say was designed to limit lawsuit abuses while preserving protections for homeowners. Lawyers and consumer advocates, however, say the new law will severely limit homeowners’ ability to hold insurance companies accountable when they take months or years to pay for a claim, underpay or wrongfully deny legitimate claims.”

The nonprofit Consumer Federation of America has issued tips for ensuring fair payment of insurance claims you file in the wake of Harvey.

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