If you live near one a storm-affected area, another valuable way you can help right now is to donate blood.
“We need money, yes, but we also need blood donations,” says Cooper. “When storms come through areas where blood drives are scheduled, those drives get canceled, so needs go unanswered. If you can take an hour out of your day to donate blood, that’s a big help.”
Plenty of other organizations are collecting funds, but donor beware
“Every time there is a major disaster, we see a sharp rise in charity scams due to the increase in media coverage and prospective donors looking to contribute their money to help others,” says Michael Lai, CEO at Sitejabber, a consumer protection website. “We saw this happen with Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, the earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia last year and the recent wildfires in California.”
Donors can dodge scammers by putting in the extra steps to vet charities online.
“Most reputable or established charity organizations are registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) and can be found here,” says Lai.
Crowdfunding sites, unlike registered non-profits, can be much trickier to verify and sites such as GoFundMe have been abused by scammers.
To help, GoFundMe has set up a page of verified fundraising campaigns from individuals and companies involved in the Bahamian relief effort.
Your best bet when donating to a crowdfunding platform is to check the online profiles of the campaign manager on Facebook and LinkedIn, says Lai.
“Prospective donors should also reach out to the campaign manager directly to assess the credibility of the charity,” he adds. “Secondly, make sure to check the refund policies of the platform you're using to donate. Most platforms will refund your money if a campaign doesn’t reach its goals or is shut down for any reason. For example, GoFundMe offers a $1000 guarantee for campaigns that are found to be fraudulent.”
Donors should always use Paypal or a credit card when making online donations, as these “offer a certain degree of fraud protection,” says Lai. “You can further protect yourself by never paying via wire transfer like Western Union or MoneyGram.”
Prospective donors should also be wary when encountered by people claiming to be raising money for a charitable cause.
“It's important to be extra careful with anyone soliciting money of behalf of a charity.” Lai says. “Always find out which charity they are representing and never feel pressured to donate over the phone. All reputable charities should allow for donations through a website. Lastly, never give out your social security number, home address or any personal information to callers soliciting a donation, as this is a common tactic for identity theft.”
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