Beware of scammers seeking donations they claim will go to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, authorities warned Friday.
“North Carolinians naturally want to reach out and help our neighbors who were hard-hit by flooding in Texas, but, sadly, natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey also bring out the scam artists,” N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall said.
Look for charities you know and contact them, she said. Avoid responding to emotional appeals online from groups whose work you aren’t familiar with, and donate to groups that have resources in the area and an established track record of helping people, Marshall said.
Visit the charities section of www.sosnc.gov to check out groups soliciting you for donations and make sure they are legitimate.
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If you suspect a scam charity has contacted you, report it to the Secretary of State’s Office at 888-830-4989, or to local authorities. And never give financial information over the phone.
Gastonia Police recommend asking a caller what organization they represent, then hanging up and researching the group. Call the organization and ask if they are soliciting donations. Better yet, visit a local office or chapter and speak with someone face to face, police said.
The same holds true for computer solicitations, Gastonia Police said. Delete the email, research the organization and contact them.
The Better Business Bureau reported already seeing crowd-funding appeals “of a dubious nature.”
Be cautious about gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations, the BBB advised.
“In-kind drives for food and clothing, while well intentioned, may not necessarily be the quickest way to help those in need – unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to distribute such aid properly,” the BBB said. “Ask the charity about its transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance.”
Also know that some crowd-funding sites do little vetting of people who post for help after a disaster, and it is often difficult for donors to verify the trustworthiness of crowd-funding requests for support, according to the BBB.
The BBB released a list of BBB-accredited charities that are raising money for Hurricane Harvey relief assistance and that meet its 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability.
On the list are the ALS Association/Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association, American Red Cross, AmeriCares, ASPCA / American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Church World Service, Communities in Schools, Direct Relief, Feeding America, GlobalGiving Foundation, Houston Food Bank.
Also, the Houston Humane Society, Humane Society of the United States, Islamic Relief USA, MAP International, Operation USA, Salvation Army, Save the Children, United Methodist Committee on Relief, United Way of Greater Houston and United Way Worldwide.