In the wake of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, more than 529,000 applications for aid were submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). So far, FEMA has approved over 167,000 applications and distributed over $125 million in disaster assistance. The destruction is record breaking – leaving many in dire need of help.
In the days and weeks following these devastating storms, generous people from across the country have been gathering canned goods, donating clothes and making financial contributions. Unfortunately, there are also people looking to abuse this outpouring of generosity.
The fake donation schemes and scam tactics that follow natural disasters can be avoided. Here are a few things to keep in mind before making your next donation:
Stick With What You Know
Think about the organizations you are already aware of. Try and remember what non-profits you knew of before the natural disaster hit. That’s a good indication that those groups are well-established non-profits committed to giving – even when there isn’t a crisis in the news. A few examples of such organizations are:
Do Your Research
Before dropping off your donations at a new location or giving cash to an organization you’re unfamiliar with, do your research. When was the group founded? Where are they sending the donations? Will you receive a receipt for your donation? By learning more about the organization, you can ensure your donation is in the right hands. Both the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance and GuideStar are excellent resources for starting your search and reporting suspicious behavior.
Avoid Telephone Solicitations
Receiving direct phone calls asking for a donation payment over the phone should be a red flag. Even if the person says they’re calling from a reputable organization, you can never be too sure. Instead of providing your payment information over the phone, request the caller send you more information in the mail. If they are a functioning organization, this request should not be a problem. If they push back and still pressure you for payment over the phone, be careful. Remember, it’s always better to have something in writing!
Take Caution When Texting to Give
The ability to text your donation to an organization is a new, helpful feature. That said, there are two things to be aware of. First, there may be a delay in the organization receiving your donation. Some cell phone service providers wait to deliver payment until after your phone bill has been paid. Secondly, texting to give has not yet been adopted by all organizations, but it can easily be taken advantage of by scammers. Before you text your contribution, be sure to review the organization’s website and ensure they accept donations via text message.
Donating your money, goods and time shouldn’t be a stressful experience. Save yourself from frustration, confusion and legal trouble by spending a few moments to verify the organization or non-profit you’re looking to work with.