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Experts share tips to avoid scammers when donating to Maui wildfires relief

Posted at 5:48 PM, Aug 16, 2023

As recovery efforts get underway in Maui following the wildfires, scammers are also preying on the situation.

“Pretty much every time there's a big natural or not natural disaster, it's followed closely by a scam artist," said Richard Copelan, President of Better Business Bureau Tri-Cities.

Copelan says scammers know it’s a prime time to prey on emotions and people’s willingness to help.

“There are those scam artists, storm chasers, who chase around people who have been victims of disasters. There are scams now where they're going after people who want to help out," Copelan explained.

“I will encourage people to be careful on who do you give money to unless you know the people firsthand," said Rigo Aguilera, Red Cross Disaster Services volunteer.

Experts say to slow down and do your research before donating.

 Here are some tips from the Better Business Bureau:

  • Look for experience in disaster relief
  • Donate money rather than goods
  • Examine crowdfunding requests like GoFundMe
  • Watch out for people impersonating verified organizations or government entities
  • Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation

"If you really want to help the best, the safest path to follow is number one — don't donate goods. You want to donate money and I mean money, cash, not gift cards, not wire transfer, not cryptocurrency, none of that. Donate your money through someone that you absolutely know you can trust," Copelan added.
The American Red Cross says financial donations are the quickest and best way to help those who need it most.

“They're safer because we report every penny that comes in," Aguilera said.

The Red Cross is using the donated money to help with food, shelter, and medical support among other things.

To donate, you can visit their website or call 1-800-733-2767.

If you think you have fallen victim to a scam, you can report it to the Better Business Bureau’sscam tracker.

Charity Navigator is another website that has a Hawaii wildfires page listing vetted nonprofits accepting donations.