BBB warns against donating to fake relief funds in the wake of Hurricane Harvey

Rescue boats fill Tidwell Road as they help flood victims evacuate as floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey rise Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – People across the country are stepping up to help out with relief funds for Hurricane Harvey victims, but there are some risks to be aware of before making a donation.

Hurricane Harvey’s relentless path has left at least 10 dead and countless people without homes in Houston and surrounding areas. Relief funds have been established, and support is pouring in from all over the country.

“Everybody wants to help; everybody is seeing all of this coverage on the television,” Better Business Bureau of Upstate NY Communications Director Melanie McGovern said. “They want to help, they want to donate, but they don’t know how to do that.”

When a natural disaster takes place, McGovern said there are some people who look to capitalize on it.

“A lot of scammers use this as an opportunity to get people with emotions running so high for a natural disaster,” she said.

McGovern has seen it before: people with good intentions end up donating to a phony charity, and their money is essentially stolen.

“We saw this after the Boston Marathon bombing,” she said. “After school shootings, we see these charities just kind of pop up out of nowhere.”

To ensure you don’t donate to a fake relief fund, there are warning signs to look for.

“If there’s a charity and they don’t have any kind of website or they don’t have any kind of record anywhere – that’s a big red flag,” she said. “There’s bad spelling, bad grammar. The formatting looks weird, the pictures look pixilated. They might have been taken off of another website.”

If something seems off, you can always contact the BBB directly. McGovern said the organization will be able to confirm if a charity is legitimate.

“If you start asking those good questions, if someone is trying to scam you, they’ll probably just hang up on you and try to move on to the next person,” she said.

If you do want to donate, there is currently a list on the BBB website of accredited charities that are helping with the relief funds in Texas.

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