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Donate wisely: Avoiding scams for disaster relief aid

Victims of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti receive food

Victims of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti receive food from the UN on Oct. 12, 2016. If you want to help those affected by natural disasters, just be sure you aren't the victim of a phone or email scam. Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images / Hector Retamal

It’s heartbreaking watching the news and seeing the devastation Hurricane Matthew caused in Haiti and in the United States. After superstorm Sandy, the pain is real to Long Islanders.

You want to help. But while donating money is the right thing to do, do it wisely. Scam artists are waiting to take advantage of your kindness.

One of the most common scenarios is a con artist posing as a member of a relief group or from a charity. “You’ll get an email, phone call or text asking if you would like to donate money to help the most recent disaster. They will almost always ask for your credit card information and sometimes, your banking information and Social Security Number,” says Eva Velasquez, CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center in San Diego.

How best to make sure your money goes where you want it to?

  • Know what to look for

Don’t be pressured to give immediately. Request a 990 form from the organization. This is like a 1040 form for charities. All U.S. charities are required to submit it to the government. No form, no money.

  • Research

You can also go on websites like and, which provide vital information and ratings on charities. What’s a sign of a good organization? “Operating expenses should not be more than 20% of revenues,” says Jean Shafiroff, author of the book “Successful Philanthropy.”

  • Be smart

Says Steven Weisman, an attorney and author of “The Truth About Avoiding Scams,” “Never give credit card information over the phone to anyone you have not called or in response to an email.”


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