State officials warn of Hurricane Irma charity scams

As attention turns to relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, scammers are once again looking to profit from people's pain.

Secretary of State Elaine Marshall is looking to crack down on charity scams, releasing a statement that says, "We are all witnessing so much suffering caused by natural disasters right now... I urge everyone to make sure their generosity gets to those in need and does the maximum good by following a few basic tips."

The first tip: to be aware that these scams are still circulating.

One of the most common ways scammers prey on people is through fake websites. Typically, a scammer will set up a domain that mimics the name of a reputable cause.

This proved to be an issue following Hurricane Harvey, as the Attorney General's Office in Texas says they received more than 3,000 complaints about fake websites.

Now, the same issue is popping up after Hurricane Irma. According to the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center, more than 700 websites have been created using domains with the phrase "Irma relief" over the last week.

While not all relief websites are scams, make sure to thoroughly research the site before sending any type of online payment.

A good place to start is on CharityNavigator.org. This lets you research an organization's track record to get a better sense of their legitimacy.

Secretary Marshall says you can also visit the Secretary of State's Charitable Solicitation Licensing Division to research charities registered with the Secretary of State's Office.

On social media, numerous GoFundMe pages are also springing up. If you plan on donating to one, do so through the group's Direct Impact Fund.

This allows you to donate to a general relief fund, which site officials will then distribute to verified campaigns.

Secretary Marshall says the safest way to make sure your donation is going to the right place is by giving to organizations that are already on the ground in the affected area.

"I realize there are new charities and GoFundMe pages that inevitably spring up after tragedies like these and many of them may be well-intentioned, but it is always wise to look for those charities that we know have the infrastructure and the resources on the ground in the affected regions to get help to people in the quickest, most efficient manner," said Secretary Marshall.



 

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