How to avoid Hurricane Harvey charity scams and make sure your money gets to victims who need help

How to avoid charity scams in wake of Harvey
Posted at 3:03 AM, Aug 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-30 06:23:39-04

For most of us, the destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey is playing out on social media and television, leaving many folks wondering how they can help the people in Texas who lost everything.

The images are certainly powerful. It is motivating folks from around the country to give.

"You have people who go from having maybe something, maybe plenty, to nothing. And they need us," said Scott McNichols, President of McNichols Company in Tampa.

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McNichols donated to the Salvation Army after visiting his company's Houston plant eight days ago.

"Our people are safe, and we are very grateful and their families too," McNichols said.

Many Florida agencies are warning potential donors to do their research before sending money to just any charity, especially through crowd funding sites.

"When people are just popping up the GoFundMe accounts, it might not be what you think it is," said Captain Andy Miller, the Commander for the Salvation Army in Tampa.

The Better Business Bureau says often times times those folks are not being vetted. If you are giving to them make sure you know them personally. The BBB says unless a charity is on the ground in areas impacted by Harvey, they probably won't be able to help with immediate needs.

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The Salvation Army has been in the Houston area since before the storm hit.

"We are aware of the challenges they have right now, they need resources and finances to help enable them to have food they can serve," said Capt. Miller. "They are running out of food in those areas right now."

Donating physical items like water, clothing and food is not what reputable always charities need.

Capt. Miller says the Salvation Army buys their donations in bulk, making your dollars go a lot further.

The BBB says sometimes people "raise money" for larger charities. They suggest cutting out the middle man.

You can research reputable charities through the Charity Navigator or by checking out charities on the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Check-A-Charity website.

The Office of the Florida Attorney General says you need to report to them if you feel believe you are a victim of a charity scam. You can do so at or by calling (866) 9-NO-SCAM.

“As Floridians, we know all too well the destruction a massive hurricane can cause and how vital charitable donations are in helping communities recover—but before you give, please take steps to ensure your donation will be used to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey, not a scammer exploiting the goodwill of Floridians,” said Attorney General Bondi.