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Avoid charity scams while donating during disasters

When you see the devastation and displacement caused by Hurricane Harvey, the urge to help the helpless is understandable.

But federal officials warn that scammers are standing by to prey upon your generosity.

The Federal Trade Commission released an alert warning consumers to be aware of donation requests from fraudulent charitable organizations. Unfortunately, charity scams often follow major natural disasters.

Don’t be afraid to give. Just make sure you are dealing with a reputable charitable organization before donating to any cause.

If you’re looking for a way to help those in Texas, consider these tips:

Be cautious when giving online.

Charity scams take many forms, including emails containing links or attachments directing users to phishing or malware-infected websites, cautions the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team. Don’t follow unsolicited web links or attachments in email messages. If you want to give to a charity online, go directly to the organization’s website.

Keep your computer up to date.

Because many charity scams surface online, it’s critical to keep antivirus and other computer software up to date, US-CERT advises.

Donate to reputable charities.

Donate to charities that have a long track record with disaster relief. The Better Business Bureau has compiled a list of national BBB Accredited Charities that are engaged in Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. To see how each organization stacks up, take advantage of the research compiled by charity watchdogs such as Charity Watch.

Designate the disaster.

When you make a donation, designate the disaster to ensure your funds are going directly to disaster relief, the Federal Trade Commission advises.

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