Helping after Harvey: How to avoid donation scams

As the devastation continues across Texas, many people here in the east are looking to give back.

Before lending a helping hand to victims in the wake of Harvey, make sure your donation counts.

The Better Business Bureau is warning people to watch out for scammers looking to take advantage of your generosity.

To protect yourself, it's important to do your homework.

Start with online research on sites like Charity Navigator, Give.org and the Better Business Bureau. Each of these sites lets you to learn more about a particular charity. From there, you can decide the legitimacy and whether or not you want to move forward.

To make sure your donation is helping those in need quickly, make sure the charity already has staff on the ground in the area.

Double check the name of the charity. A lot of times, phony charities will use names that closely resemble legitimate organizations.

Never send cash donations because they can easily get lost. A check is always the safest way to ensure your donation gets where it needs to go.

If you give online, make sure the site is secure. You can check that by making sure the URL begins with "https."

Be wary of telemarketers. Even if the organization is legitimate, a large chunk of your donation may go to the telemarketer for profit. Instead, find charities that you support and reach out to them, rather than wait for a charity to contact you.

The BBB says only 20 organizations raising funds for Harvey relief meet their charity accountability standards:

-American Red Cross
-AmeriCares
-Church World Service
-Direct Relief
-GlobalGiving Foundation
-Houston Food Bank
-Houston Humane Society
-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

If you've been contacted by a charity scammer, be sure to file a complaint with the BBB.org/scamtracker or Texas Attorney General’s hotline (800-621-0508 or consumeremergency@nag.texas.gov).