Want to Help Hurricane Victims? Feds Warn About Scam Websites

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If the images of recent hurricanes hitting North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida moved you to try and help victims, the federal government has a warning: Think with your head, not your heart.

The Federal Trade Commission warns that in recent weeks, scam websites have popped up asking for donations and promising to help those whose lives were turned upside down in the wake of Hurricane Florence’s rampage through the Carolinas.

Unfortunately, the FTC says these are “sham charities” simply out to separate you from your hard-earned money. According to the FTC:

Some sites claim — without any clear way to verify it — that a certain percentage of donations go to certain groups, like first responders. Other sites invoke the names of well-recognized groups like the Red Cross but, again, with no easy way to confirm a relationship.

With Hurricane Michael’s recent landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast, you can expect more scams to appear soon.

How to avoid charity scams

Don’t let these fraudsters scare you into not helping. If you use a little common sense, you can ensure your money goes to the right people.

Beware of any “charitable organizations” that seem to have materialized out of thin air. Only donate to charities you know and trust.

The FTC offers the following recommendations for finding a good charity:

  • Research aid organizations at Charity Watch, Charity Navigator, GuideStar or the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.
  • Research organizations listed on social media. Just because you see an organization on a social media site doesn’t mean it’s legit.
  • Do not send a text to donate until you have confirmed the number you are texting to with the charity itself.
  • If you want to ensure that your donation goes to a specific relief effort — such as helping hurricane victims — make sure you specify that, or your donation could end up going into an aid organization’s general fund instead.
  • If you believe you have been scammed, file a complaint with the FTC.

Do you have more tips for avoiding scam charities? Share them in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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