Warning for donating to hurricane victims: be careful


AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) – Those heart stopping scenes of devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew could move just about anyone to want to pitch in and help, but consumer advocates warn, if your hard earned money ends up in the hands of a crook, it won’t help anybody.

The FBI reported 4,000 websites were set up for the sole purpose of scamming sympathetic donors after Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast in 2005.

If you get a call, or someone rings your doorbell asking for donations, Melanie McGovern of the Upstate Better Business Bureau said, you should ask for brochures, phone numbers, or websites so you can check them out first.

“If they are being high pressure with you and you say well, let me take a little bit of time to do some research and I will give you a call back. Usually if they are a reputable charity, or a business, they will give you that time. If they are not, the best thing to do is simply hang up.”

If you want to be proactive, go with relief charities you are familiar with, such as the American Red Cross or the United Way. McGovern added, before any charity or non-profit group can ask you for a donation, legally, they have to be registered with the New York Attorney General’s Charities Bureau.

“Before you just blankly donate money, you should always check to make sure that the charity is leigitimate, if it is registered with the State of New York or another state to make sure your money is not going into the pocket of a scammer.”

You can look over the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau here. The Better Business Bureau also rates charities and non-profit agencies through its Wise Giving Alliance.

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