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How to avoid scams when donating to help Harvey victim - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

How to avoid scams when donating to help Harvey victims

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With all of the destruction in southeast Texas after Hurricane Harvey, there is a dire need for help.

"The need is enormous. Right now, the Red Cross is sheltering about 6,000 people. We expect there to be a lot more," said Loren Leidinger, regional chief officer at American Red Cross.

The American Red Cross is asking for donations and so are thousands of other organizations. Charities have sprung up overnight in response to the national disaster.

If you are planning to give, be cautious of charity scams. Before donating to any charity or organization, do your research, know where your aid is going and be sure the organization will use the money as promised.

"To figure out if they are legitimate or not, you can ask them for their determination letter, which is the letter from the government that says they are a real non-profit," Leidinger said.

Before you donate to a charity, Leidinger recommends checking with a charity monitoring organization like the Better Business Bureau or Guidestar.org.

Leidinger also recommends avoiding donations over the phone, email or through unknown social media pages. She said it is most likely a scam if they are pressuring you to donate immediately or asking you to wire money.

"Ask questions: 'Where are your funds going to be used? How are they going to be used?'" Leidinger recommends.

San Luis Obispo resident Ryan James said he only donates to reputable organizations.

"A well-recognized name, something that is in the media quite a bit, has a lot of public eyes on it," James said.

There are national and local organizations providing services to help those in Texas with the common goal of helping others.

"The best we can do is come together and continue to help, but do it in the right way so we are not getting scammed," said Carrie Hartford, a San Luis Obispo resident. "Make sure that if you do see a scam, communicate that to other people."

The American Red Cross added that most charities prefer monetary donations rather than materials.

They also said they are still looking for volunteers. So far, they have sent one volunteer from Santa Barbara County.

If you would like to donate to victims through the American Red Cross, you can do so by texting the word Harvey to 90999 to make a $10 donation. You can also donate on their website, redcross.org.

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