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How to avoid a Hurricane Harvey charity scam

Don't Waste Your Money
Posted at 11:17 AM, Aug 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-05 09:16:16-04

Whenever a natural disaster strikes -- from Hurricane Katrina to Oklahoma tornadoes, to now Hurricane Harvey in Texas -- many Tri-Staters ask how they can help. Should you give cash, donate cleaning supplies or collect canned goods?

Giving is good. But giving to a good charity -- one that knows how to get the help to victims quickly -- is even better.

The Better Business Bureau and Charity Navigator are offering advice on how to donate and sharing which groups are best prepared to distribute your donation.

Despite all the new high tech ways to donate, from crowdsourcing to charity apps, an oldie might be your best bet at first.

Red Cross easiest to donate to

The American Red Cross may be the charity your mom, dad, and grandfather gave too, but it's still the go-to charity in times of crisis. It has the staff, trucks, and logistics to get help where it is needed quickly.

It's also very easy to donate to the Red Cross. To contribute, you can simply text the word "HARVEY" to 90999.

You will automatically give $10 to hurricane victims and a $10 charge will be added to your phone bill this month.  It's that simple. If you visit Apple's website, you will find an easy way to donate to the Red Cross using your Apple account.

You can also visit their website, RedCross.org, to donate by credit card.

You can also watch WCPO 9 On Your Side again Tuesday from 4 to 8 p.m. for our live phone bank, taking Red Cross donations during our evening newscast. To donate, call 513-719-4929 (updated number).

Other charities taking donations

The Cincinnati-based help group Matthew 25 Ministries is gathering donations of cleaning supplies, canned food, and items like diapers, to truck down to the hurricane zone later this week. Visit Matthew 25's website to help.

Some more top rated, legitimate charities include:

  • Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. Set up by the top-rated charity Global Giving.
  • Catholic Charities of USA. Visit their website at CCUSA.
  • Salvation Army. With a similar mission to the Red Cross, contact www.helpsalvationarmy
  • The SPCA is putting out a call for homes to take in lost pets from the storm at SPCA.org.

The charity review site, Charity Navigator, lists a number of other good charities accepting money and goods.

Beware crowdsourcing requests

Crowdsourcing for funds is all the rage these days, thanks to sites like GoFundMe. GoFundMe has sent up an entire Hurricane Harvey section, but here you need to use caution.

While most of the requests are legitimate appeals for money, be advised that unscrupulous people have been known to fake illness and problems in order to get money.

Also be aware that personal appeals for money on crowdsourcing sites typically are not tax deductible, unlike the Red Cross and Salvation Army,

Beware unsolicited requests for money

The Better Business Bureau, meantime, urges you to be careful of unsolicited phone calls, emails, or Facebook requests for help (even if it is a post shared by one of your Facebook friends).

While many of them may be well-intentioned, you just don't know where your money is going. Even someone who "plans" to send the money to victims may forget to do so.

Along those lines, the BBB says to never send cash through the mail, and to be careful donating through money transfer smartphone apps like Venmo and Zelle. Personal money transfers are not tax deductible, and may be untraceable if the money is lost.

Your best bet is to stick with many of the good, legitimate charities, so you don't waste your money.

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