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FTC offers resources for victims, those willing to help in wake of Hurricane Harvey

August 29, 2017

The Federal Trade Commission has advice for victims of severe storms and flooding in Texas and Louisiana as result of Hurricane Harvey as well as for those looking to help the victims.

For wise giving after the storm, according to the FTC, those looking to help should be cautious of charity scams. The commission recommends that people do some research to ensure that donations will go to a reputable organization that will use the money as promised. In addition:

  • Donate to charities people know and trust with a proven track record of dealing with disasters.
  • Be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight in connection with current events.
  • Name the disaster so people can ensure their funds are going to disaster relief, rather than a general fund.
  • Never click on links or open attachments in e-mails unless it is known who sent it. People could unknowingly install malware on their computer.
  • Don't assume that charity messages posted on social media are legitimate.
  • When texting to donate, confirm the number with the source before donating. The charge will show up on mobile phone bills, but donations are not immediate.
  • Find out if the charity or fundraiser is registered by contacting the National Association of State Charity Officials. If they should be registered, but they're not, consider donating to another charity.

The storm has devastated much of Texas and Louisiana. Once the rain and floodwaters recede, it will be time to take stock and develop a recovery plan. The FTC offers these tips and links to resources to help make the task less burdensome:

  • Contact insurance companies. Ask what the next steps are in assessing any damage to homes or business. Homes and their contents may look beyond hope, but it's possible many belongings can be restored.
  • Be skeptical of people promising immediate clean-up and debris removal. Some may demand payment up-front for work they never do, quote outrageous prices or simply lack the skills, licenses and insurance to legally do the work.
  • Be cautious of rental listing scams. Scammers often advertise rentals that don't exist to trick people into sending money before they find out the truth.
  • Many people will be asking for personal information. Ask for identification before sharing Social Security or account numbers. Scammers sometimes pose as government officials and ask for victims' financial information or money to apply for aid that can be requested for free. Government officials will never ask for money in exchange for information or the promise of a check.
  • Victims might have had to leave their homes without IDs, checks, credit and debit cards and other documents. If money is needed, understand the options for paying bills and replacing important documents.
  • Call creditors and ask for help. Even if homes are uninhabitable, the mortgage still exists. Contact lenders to discuss options.

In addition to the tips and advice above, people can find more information at FTC.gov/weatheremergencies.