Donating after disaster: Avoiding scammers & what you should donate


If you want to help storm victims — experts urge you to be cautious. They say some donations can cause more harm than good, and scammers are looking to profit from the disaster. 

As images of Harvey’s destruction grip the country — many Americans want to help the people who’ve lost everything.   But experts say, be careful. “Unfortunately, at times like this there are scammers out there who will try to take your money and benefit from your generosity.” says Katie Daffan of the FTC, or the Federal Trade Commission.

Daffan says you should be cautious about sending text donations or opening emails that request money.  “You could unknowingly download malware onto your computer.” Daffan also cautions before making any donation, do your research, and call the organization directly. “Go with an organization that you trust and that has a proven track record when it comes to assisting disaster victims.”

Greg Forrester is the CEO of the national VOAD, or Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters. VOAD is an association of vetted groups that spring into action when disaster strikes.

Forrester says if you want to help, donating money is best. “For us, it allows the flexibility of being able to actually get the things we need on the ground, as the needs are expressed immediately.” says Forrester.

Forrester says food and clothing donations can often go to waste or cause more work for volunteers. “We call the donations die of disaster the second side of disaster. Well-meaning people start to collect items that may have been put out there on social media, without knowing that we already got those resources en route or in play.” says Forrester.

If you want to help with efforts on the ground, VOAD recommends waiting before heading to Texas. VOAD says an influx of volunteers from across the country could eat up valuable resources that victims and local volunteers need. 

Forrester went on to tell us “We look at this as a long term event. This is a marathon. We’ll be working in Texas for the next 12-15 years from our early estimates. You’ll have an opportunity to serve.”

Forrester urges people to train with your local VOAD affiliate, so you’ll be ready if disaster ever strikes your hometown.  

If you want to vet a certain charity before donating, the FTC recommends checking with Guidestar, the BBB or Charity navigator. All three organizations have websites that list reputable charities. 


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