Director’s Column: Safeguard Yourself From Phony Charities

It is so wonderful to see people coming together to help the survivors of Hurricane Harvey in Texas. This support shows the positive side of people helping other people. Unfortunately, there are others who will try to take advantage of people, especially senior citizens, during a disaster by preying on your good nature and willingness to help others in times of crisis.

Please be on alert for phony requests for post-disaster donations and attempts to get your personal information so they can steal your identity. It’s really a shame that there are people who prey on the good intentions of others and use the situation like Harvey to take advantage. If you use email watch out for email “phishing” scams. This is another type of scam to either elicit money from you or get you to click on a link that then lets them into your computer to steal your personal info. Never click on an attachments or links unless you are absolutely sure of the source. I have gotten emails that look like they are coming from a friend or my credit card company that were actually scams. Not sure about an email, delete it and call the person or company.

Homeland Security (HS) suggests that the best way to support disaster survivors in their recovery efforts is to donate money and time to trusted, reputable, voluntary or charitable organizations. Cash donations offer voluntary agencies and faith-based organizations the most flexibility to address urgently developing needs. With cash in hand, these organizations can obtain needed resources nearer to the disaster location. This inflow of cash also pumps money back into the local economy and helps local businesses recover faster.

HS also states, “Please do not donate unsolicited goods such as used clothing, miscellaneous household items, medicine, or perishable foodstuffs at this time. When used personal items are donated, the helping agencies must redirect their staff away from providing direct services to survivors in order to sort, package, transport, warehouse and distribute items that may not meet the needs of disaster survivors.”

If you are thinking about donating for disaster relief first check if the charity is legitimate by going to the Better Business Bureau website which lists information on trusted charities at www.bbb.org. If someone is soliciting money for the disaster from you and you are not sure if this is a scam check out the Federal Trade Commission website. The FTC website has all the latest information posted about phone scams and what to do, 10 things you can do to avoid fraud, email phishing, and identity theft. The FTC website is www.consumer.ftc.gov. The resources provided there are invaluable.

If you do become a victim of identity left, the FTC also has resources for you to report it and develop a recovery plan at www.identitytheft.gov. Another resource for reporting fraud as well as tools to manage your money wisely is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at www.consumerfinance.gov. This site also has information about on credit reports, managing debt, and planning for retirement.

While our hearts go out to the people in Texas and all along the gulf coast who are dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, please be careful to ensure your assistance reaches the people in need. For more information on anything in this article or for resources to help people in our region, contact the NY Connects Helpline at 753-4582, 363-4582, or 661-7582. Remember we are here to help you!

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