IRS warns taxpayers about charity scams related to Hurricane Harvey

IRS warns taxpayers about charity scams related to Hurricane Harvey

Are you considering a donation to a Harvey relief fund?

The need for that help will be enormous: FEMA Administrator Brock Long has said more than 195,000 people already have registered for disaster assistance. Sending cash is typically the most efficient way to get help to those who need it most. If you are giving to them make sure you know them personally.

If you are planning to donate through a social network solicitation, find out what percentage is going to the charity, whether you will be charged a fee, or if a percentage of your donation will be paid to the platform website.

The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that over $20 million was lost to charity scammers after Hurricane Katrina, and this disaster has the potential to cause just as much harm. In response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the Asian tsunamis, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and others raised concerns about websites and new organizations that were created overnight, allegedly to help victims.

Every spring, when the National Weather Service announces potential names for the upcoming hurricane season, scammers race to create deceptive websites and accounts soliciting donations using variations of those storm names.

"Everybody wants to help; everybody is seeing all of this coverage on the television", said Better Business Bureau of Upstate NY Communications Director Melanie McGovern.

In the Houston area alone there are almost 10,000 United Airlines employees, spokesperson Charlie Hobart told CBS. They're now on the ground at a staging area in Austin, Texas.

The FTC also warns against opening an email and attachments requesting donations, since doing so could install malware onto the computer, and donating through social media sites.

Chris Brown was just one of the celebrities who responded to Kevin Hart's challenge to make a donation of $25,000 to the fund. Donate through known, reputable entities like the American Red Cross or the Salvation Army, or look for local charities close to where the disaster has occurred. Be sure to take time to research the charity.

To help right now, you can donate to some already checked-out charities listed below.

There are also two volunteers who are "virtually deployed", meaning they are stationed in North Dakota, but still dedicated to helping with Hurricane Harvey.

The Cincinnati-based help group Matthew 25 Ministries is gathering donations of cleaning supplies, canned food, and items like diapers, to truck down to the hurricane zone later this week.

Immediate support may be better implemented by national or global organizations able to assemble resources from unaffected areas, she says.

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