Throw a dart at a map of the U.S. and chances are you’ll land on a community that suffered severe weather this year. Whether it’s landslides on the West Coast, extreme ice storms in the South, spring tornadoes across the Midwest, recent flooding in the Northeast, or the wildfires consuming the Hawaiian island of Maui, communities have experienced devastating losses ― and many are still recovering. With any weather disaster, you may consider a charitable donation to help those affected. But how you can avoid charity scams?
First, know that when there’s a natural disaster, scammers are quick to follow. Some research and planning before you donate will help make sure your money helps people in need, not charity scammers.
- Donate to charities you know and trust with a proven track record with dealing with disasters.
- Research the organization yourself — especially if the donation request comes on social media. Search the name plus “complaint,” “review,” “rating,” or “scam.” And check out the charity on the Better Business Bureau's (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or Candid. If the message was from a friend, ask them if they know the organization themselves. Find out exactly how much of every dollar you donate goes directly to the charity’s beneficiaries.
- Be cautious about giving to individuals on crowdfunding sites. If you’re considering it, giving to someone you personally know and trust is safest. Also, review the platform’s policies and procedures. Some crowdfunding sites take measures to check out postings asking for help after a disaster. Others don’t.
- Don’t donate to anyone who insists you can only pay by cash, gift card, wiring money, or cryptocurrency. That’s how scammers tell you to pay. If you decide to donate, pay by credit card, which gives you more protections.
- Confirm the number before you text to donate. Go straight to the charity. Is it their number?
The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.
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Thank you for all the advice and suggestions you give. Too many scammers and everyone is in need right now. I only donate locally to those I know.