WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – Experts say the biggest need right now is cash but before you give, you should make sure your money will actually be put to good use.
As images of Harvey’s destruction grip the country, many Americans want to help the people who’ve lost everything, but experts say, be careful.
“Unfortunately, at times like this there are schemers out there who will try to take your money and benefit from your generosity,” said Katie Daffan from the Federal Trade Commission.
Katie Daffan also says you should be cautious about sending text donations or opening emails that request money.
“You could unknowingly download malware onto your computer,” said Daffan.
Daffan says before making any donation, do your research and call the organization directly, “Go with an organization that you trust and that has a proven track record when it comes to assisting disaster victims.”
A safe way to donate here in western Massachusetts is by donating to the Western Massachusetts Chapter of the American Red Cross. Click here for more information on how you can donate.
Greg Forrester is the CEO of the national VOAD, or Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters. VOAD is an association of vetted groups that spring into action when disaster strikes.
Forrester says if you want to help, donating money is best.
“For us, it allows the flexibility of being able to actually get the things we need on the ground, as the needs are expressed immediately,” said Forrester.
Barry Kriger went on Rock 102 to discuss Harvey relief efforts
Forrester says food and clothing donations can often go to waste or cause more work for volunteers, “We call the donations die of disaster the second side of disaster/Well-meaning people start to collect items that may have been put out there on social media, without knowing that we already got those resources en route or in play.”
If you want to help with efforts on the ground, VOAD recommends waiting before heading to Texas. VOAD says an influx of volunteers from across the country could eat up valuable resources that victims and local volunteers need.
“We look at this as a long term event. This is a marathon. We’ll be working in Texas for the next 12-15 years from our early estimates. You’ll have an opportunity to serve,” said Forrester.
He urges people to train with your local VOAD affiliate, so you’ll be ready if disaster ever strikes your hometown.
If you want to vet a certain charity before donating the FTC recommends checking with Guidestar, the BBB or Charity navigator.
All three organizations have websites that list reputable charities.
Hurricane Harvey photos from the American Red Cross