How to help Hurricane Harvey victims without getting scammed

Experts weigh in on how best to avoid donation scams. (Source: WOIO)
Experts weigh in on how best to avoid donation scams. (Source: WOIO)

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Right now you might be wondering how you can help Hurricane Harvey victims.

Many people are looking to donate money.  And while that represents some of the best of humanity, the worst of humanity comes out in the form of scammers.

Cleveland 19 spoke with the Better Business Bureau to find out how to make sure your money is going to the right place.

"Best thing to do is to give your money to a well-established national organization that is equipped to help people that are victims of a natural disaster, like the Red Cross or Salvation Army," said Sue McConnell, the president and CEO of the Cleveland Better Business Bureau.

McConnell says you should be careful of a charity that was just established, or anyone going door-to-door asking for donations.

She also recommends watching out for crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe. The calls for help can be difficult to verify.

She says you should research nonprofits before you donate.

"You need to check those out very carefully. They can look very legitimate and use pictures to provoke all kinds of sympathy. But you really want to make sure your money is going to go to the people that need it," McConnell said.

McConnell warns if someone contacts you to donate, to be on guard.

That includes any emails you get or popups on social media.

"It's so easy for a scammer to put up a website that looks like someone like the Red Cross, but it won't be the Red Cross. So watch appeals that come to you, that you didn't seek out on your own," she said.

McConnell says the best way to help is by donating money—and nothing else.

"Some well-meaning local organizations might be trying to gather food or clothing, but you have to wonder if they have the wherewithal to get that material to the people who need it in Texas. It's not going to be easy to do," she said.

Another good idea is to use a credit card for your donation, that way you may have some protection in case it turns into a scam.

The BBB has vetted several nonprofit organizations, that way you can find out which ones you can trust.

Here is a list of BBB Accredited Charities that are raising funds for Hurricane Harvey relief assistance:

American Red Cross


Church World Service

Direct Relief

GlobalGiving Foundation

Humane Society of the United States

Islamic Relief USA

MAP International

Operation USA

Salvation Army

Save the Children

United Methodist Committee on Relief

United Way of Greater Houston

You can also verify the trustworthiness of a nonprofit by visiting to access free reports to see if the charity meets the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability.

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