Consumer Alert

Charitable Giving Tips: Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief

Charitable organizations will play an important role in the Texas relief efforts for Hurricane Harvey, and many Alaskans will want to give generously to help those efforts. Unfortunately, after a natural disaster or tragedy, sham charities and scammers will attempt to take advantage of donors. The Alaska Attorney General’s Office encourages donors to make sure they are dealing with legitimate organizations that are actually helping the relief effort before making a donation.

Tips to consider before making a donation:

  • Carefully review donation requests. Do some research to make sure your donation will be used as you intend. Look for organizations that are already participating in the relief effort, have a presence in the region, or have a proven track record of providing disaster aid. The first donation request you receive may not be the best.
  • Evaluate charities. There are several resources you can use to check out a charity such as IRS Select Check, Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator and GuideStar. You can also check the Alaska Attorney General’s website to find information about a charity.
  • Beware of “look-alike” or “sound-alike” names. Websites or individuals may use names that sound similar to well-known organizations in order to confuse donors. Confirm that a donation request is actually from the organization, and not an imposter, by contacting the organization directly or visiting its website.
  • Check out crowdfunding and social media campaigns before donating. Do not assume that any request you receive through a crowdfunding, a peer to peer fundraising website, or social media has been vetted or is legitimate. Consider how much of your donation will go to the website itself and if you will be charged any fees for your donation. Find out how the website will use your personal information, and be wary of sites that don’t provide a privacy policy.
  • Watch out for newly formed charities. Some charities that are formed shortly after a natural disaster may have good intentions, but may lack the experience to properly handle donors’ contributions. Carefully evaluate the charities you donate to.

Contact a charity before raising money on its behalf. If you want to set up a fundraiser for a particular charity, contact the organization in advance and determine how you can properly collect donations.

Consumer Protection Unit
August 2017