Avoid scammers when making donations

Disasters have a way of bringing out both the best and the worst in people and Hurricane Harvey is no exception. While decent people are rescuing people and animals, driving to Texas with their boats, sending all sorts of needed supplies and making donations, scammers are out in full force taking as much advantage of the situation as possible. Amidst the tragedy, criminals and scammers are price gouging, sending out phishing emails, creating charity and crowdfunding scams and fraudsters are setting up websites that look similar to legitimate charities. (for example, most legitimate organizations end in .org and not .com)  Needs are high but as long as you want to help, please be careful and be sure to participate with legitimate relief causes.

Benevolent rescuers help humans and animals – image courtesy of US Department of Defense

Some reputable and trustworthy organizations to donate to:

Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund – established by Texas Mayor Sylvester Turner and housed at the Greater Houston Community Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity.

American Red Cross – this link is specifically for Hurricane Harvey Relief.

Emergency Operations Center (In Texas) – For those people who are able to physically drop off supplies, please see what is needed and what is not acceptable below: 

  • Food: Unexpired, non-perishable and easy-to-make
  • Water: Bottled water with the safety seal intact
  • Children’s Supplies: Diapers, wipes, bottles, formula, diaper rash cream (in their original, unopened packaging) and cribs, playpens, car seats (new or gently used condition), and toys.
  • Clothing: New or gently used, and seasonally-appropriate. (e.g. shirts, pants, socks, shoes.) Only new undergarments will be accepted.
  • Equipment: Items that can be used to assist in the emergency response and immediate relief phase – such as power tools, ladders, chainsaws, fans, etc.
  • Supplies: Cleaning supplies (e.g. bleach, sponges, mops, N95 filtration masks, gloves, buckets,) chairs, and tables
  • Materials:  Building materials (e.g. sheetrock, plywood, and lumber)
  • Toys: Only new or clean, gently-used toys will be accepted (e.g. books, board games, battery-operated games)
  • Furniture: Only furniture in clean and usable condition
  • Bedding: New bedding (sheets, pillows, comforters, etc.) in unopened packages are preferred

Houston SPCA – animals need help too.

Houston Humane Society – click on link for Hurricane Harvey.

Texas Diaper Bank – Accepting the following items:

  • Baby diapers, pull-ups, adult diapers, formula, and wipes. (They primarily need larger sizes of diapers, pull-ups and adult diapers too. No cloth diapers due to inability to wash them.)
  • New or gently used baby items – Clothes, blankets, bottles, breast pumps, small toys. 

United Way Relief Fund – United Way’s first priority will be safety, shelter and basic needs, like food. Once the community is stabilized, United Way will focus on long-term recovery efforts.

How to identify a charity scam and verify the legitimacy of a charity: 

Charity Navigator – this site is a wealth of information and it provides abundant tips for donors.

FTC Consumer Information – the FTC provides signs of a charity scam and also has a handy charity checklist.

Thank you for caring enough to read this and more importantly, for helping. It takes a village and with all the cruelty and unkindness going on in the USA right now, it’s inspiring and wonderful to see the better side of people.

Until next time … Stay Cyber Safe!

2 replies
  1. Cheryl Peterson
    Cheryl Peterson says:

    For those of you looking for a way to donate in reaction to the catastrophic events unfolding in Texas, there is a wonderful article in the Business Section of today’s NY Times.

    In it, Michael Dell, the founder and chief executive of Dell Technologies (who grew up in Houston) is pledging 36 million for the Rebuild Texas Fund. Unlike other disaster relief organizations, including the Red Cross, “none of the money raised for the Rebuild Texas Fund would be used for administrative costs. Instead, the OneStar foundation and the Dell Foundation would cover choses expenses, meaning that for donors, their contributions are going directly to victims.”

    The arcticle also states that “the money raised would be used to help families in four main areas: health and housing, schools and childcare, work force and transportation, and capital for rebuilding small businesses.” Mr. Dell hopes to raise $100 million by the end of the Labor Day Weekend. 18 million is being contributed immediately and Dell will match another $18 million as donations come in.

    The article says that anyone can contribute to the fund by texting “RebuildTx to 91999 and following the prompts. Please do not take my word for it. Go online and read the article to decide for yourself if this is the way in which you would like to help.

    Best wishes, Cheryl

    • Hayley Kaplan
      Hayley Kaplan says:

      Thank you for this information, Cheryl. It’s interesting to read what the full picture of some donations are via Snopes. The good news is that Snopes validates Michael Dell’s involvement (with a few clarifications). I didn’t see the LA Times article you referenced but here’s a similar one from the NY Times. Thanks for sharing this important information.


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