Don't Become a Victim of Hurricane Relief Fraud
By Patrick Craven
I know you have seen the all the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey that hit Texas, Louisiana and other states. Harvey has broken all US records when it comes to rainfall, flooding and other damage caused by a tropical storm. But the impact isn’t just on Texas. Harvey is leaving a trail of destruction across the country that will be felt for years.
The images we have seen on TV can’t help but move you to want to help. And I hope you can. But before you take out your credit card, make sure your generous dollars are really going to make it to the victims and those that are helping provide them with the materials to survive and start their lives over again. While our hearts ache with helplessness, others’ fill with greed and see this as the perfect opportunity to exploit your sympathies and deceive you to make money. If you want to help by donating, make sure you know who you are really donating to before you give out your credit card number or write a check. And I mean REALLY know! I just did a Google search for “Hurricane Harvey Relief Organizations” and got 1,250,000 hits!!! How many of those do you think are real?
Any time you give to a charity, you want to do your homework, but in a crisis like this, we are often inspired by social media or by what we see on television and rush to make a donation. It is in times like these that we at the Center for Cyber Safety and Education recommend that you stick with the bigger, established organizations with proven track records. These organizations have the resources and structures to maximize your donation with minimal overhead, meaning more of your money will go to help victims. You can find a great list of them at https://www.nvoad.org/voad-members/national-members/. Some unknown “charities”, GoFundMe-style requests, and social media outreaches you come across may be legitimate, but many are not. Why take a chance? Even if they are really trying to help, it is not uncommon for organizations like these to have high overhead and administrative cost that will result in only a small amount of your donation actually making its way to help the victims.
Tips When Giving During a Crisis:
- Don’t give over the phone or click on links found in emails or social media. Go directly to the official website for a charity that you are familiar with and donate on their page. Don’t give to any third party solicitations.
- Be skeptical of cash requests in front of your local grocery store or other establishments. Who are these people? Don’t be fooled by what they say or how they are dressed. Ask questions, or better yet, go back home, research them and then donate online.
- Don’t be fooled by celebrity names being attached to a campaign. The organization could be using someone’s name without their permission, or that celebrity could also have been duped and is unwittingly lending their name to what they think is a good cause.
- Don’t fall for all the sad stories you are going to see and read about where they ask you to give to help a specific victim. There will be hundreds of thousands of such stories. You can best help by supporting legitimate charities, not by sending them money directly.
- Give directly to your charity of choice and designate that you want the money to go to their Hurricane Harvey Relief efforts. This will restrict them from using the money to fund their other ongoing programs.
Now is not the time to take a chance or fall for a phone or email scam. People really do need help, and it is best to support the experts who are trained and prepared and are on the ground helping those in need.
Your help and support of others is greatly appreciated. Just make sure you don’t get scammed and become a victim of Hurricane Harvey (or Hurricane Irma) yourself.
About the author: Patrick Craven is the director for the Center for Cyber Safety and Education (Center), a non-profit charitable trust committed to making the cyber world a safer place for everyone. The Center works to ensure that people across the globe have a positive and safe experience online through their educational programs, scholarships, and research. Visit Iamcybersafe.org. If you have questions or topic ideas please send them to email@example.com.