As we watch the flooding and destruction taking place in and around Houston, Texas from Hurricane Harvey, people around the country are looking for ways to help. At the beginning of what will be years of recovery, the need of those affected will be vast. While countless people are going to open their hearts and wallets to help, there are also scammers and thieves who are going to look to take advantage of the tragedy.
Hurricane Harvey Phishing Warning From DHS
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has released a US-Cert alert, warning American to beware of potential scams. Mostly sent through email, these scams claim to be raising money for Hurricane Harvey victims. People should also beware of similar solicitations received via text, Facebook and social media posts, and phone calls.
The following paragraph from the alert is critically important:
“US-CERT warns users to remain vigilant for malicious cyber activity seeking to capitalize on interest in Hurricane Harvey. Users are advised to exercise caution in handling any email with subject line, attachments, or hyperlinks related to Hurricane Harvey, even if it appears to originate from a trusted source. Fraudulent emails will often contain links or attachments that direct users to phishing or malware-infected websites. Emails requesting donations from duplicitous charitable organizations commonly appear after major natural disasters.” (Source).
Scammers are always looking for ways to get people to let their guard down. A sincere desire to help is the perfect way for thieves to get people to give over their credit card or bank information. To put it bluntly, you should never enter credit card, bank, or financial information on any links that you receive in an email.
How You Can Help
If you want to donate money to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey, the best way to do so is to go directly to the charity’s website and donate directly. This way, not only are you protected, but you know that the maximum amount of your donation is going directly to the charity and their important work.
Even if you do receive an email from a charity you think is legit, do not click on any links in the email. Open your browser, go directly to that organization’s website, and find their donation page. Taking a few extra seconds to do so is vital to protecting yourself. Any money that scammers steal is less help that goes to those who need it.
Where Is It Safe To Donate?
Here are some of the reputable organizations that are accepting Hurricane Harvey-specific donations. (Source)
American Red Cross
To make a financial donation, visit the their website (www.redcross.org), call 1-800-RED-CROSS or text HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation for those in need.
Catholic Charities of USA
To make a financial donation, visit CCUSA’s disaster-specific website (app.mobilecause.com/vf/CCUSADISASTER) or text 71777 to make a donation.
To make a financial donation, visit their website (www.globalgiving.org/projects/hurricane-harvey-relief-fund/) or text HARVEY to 80100 to donate $10 to Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.
Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has established the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund that will accept tax deductible donations. The fund is administered by the Greater Houston Community Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity. To make a financial donation, visit the GHCF website (ghcf.org).
To make a financial donation, visit www.helpsalvationarmy.org, call 1-800-SAL-ARMY, or text STORM to 51555.
United Way of Greater Houston has established a Flood Relief Fund to help with recovery needs of those most impacted. To give to the United Way Flood Relief Fund, visit unitedwayhouston.org/flood or text UWFLOOD to 41444.
Protect Yourself While Helping Others
The rebuilding effort in Houston will take years, and tens of thousands of people will be affected by this disaster. Americans will come together to support and rebuild. Take steps to ensure that scammers are not able to steal your donations. Protect your financial information, and ensure the money gets to those affected.