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Hurricane Michael: How to help victims and avoid a scam

Legitimate charities asking for help
Posted at 9:30 AM, Oct 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-11 18:42:19-04

As the pictures come in from along the Florida panhandle, especially from devastated Panama City and Mexico Beach, many of us are feeling a need to help those who lost their homes.

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 by sharing which groups are best prepared to distribute your donation.

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

Red Cross easiest to donate to

The American Red Cross is 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 $10, you can simply text the word "REDCROSS" to 90999.

You will automatically give $10 to hurricane victims and the charge will be added to your cell phone bill this month.

You can also visit the Hurricane Michael page on the Red Cross website to donate by credit card.

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. Visit Matthew 25's websiteto 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

The charity review site,Charity Navigator, has set up a list of more than a dozen legitimate charitiesaccepting money and goods for Hurricane Michael victims.

Avoid getting scammed

Crowd sourcing for funds is all the rage these days, thanks to sites likeGoFundMe. GoFundMe will be setting  up an entire Hurricane Michael 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 crowd sourcing 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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