natural disaster scams

How to avoid scams when donating to disaster relief

In the wake of a natural disaster people are looking for ways to help and get involved. With social media being a part of daily life there are more options and awareness than ever. Unfortunately, there are people in the world looking to take advantage of these exact situations. We are going to take a look at how to avoid scams when donating to disaster relief.

Scammers have amassed millions and millions of dollars just following the recent hurricanes alone. This is so heartbreaking. Scam artists will use a myriad of tools to con people into sending their “organization” money. They will create websites as soon as a hurricane is named, send emails, make social media accounts, and even set up fake campaigns for support.

The National Center for Disaster Fraud was established in 2005 by the US Department of Justice to investigate, prosecute, and prevent fraud after Hurricane Katrina. Since 2005, the NCDF has received 70,000 complaints from 50 states, 6 territories, and 4 countries. As you can tell the opportunities to get scammed are very real.

Does this mean you shouldn’t donate at all? Of course not. One of the amazing factors about our digital age is the access to information and the ability to share information at a rapid pace. The downside to that is that it is very easy to get caught up in a scam with good intentions.


So, what do you do when disaster strikes and you want to help out?


Listed below are a few things to look out for and tips when looking for a place to donate monetarily.

1) Be wary of calls or people going door-to-door asking for money especially if they won’t be specific about the charity itself and how much money goes to support disaster victims.

2) Do not respond to any unsolicited incoming emails, including clicking links contained within those messages because they could contain viruses.

3) Beware of copycats. Many scammers will create names of “organizations” that are very similar to those that already exist.

4) Rather than just clicking that link you see recommended, verify the legitimacy of that nonprofit organization by utilizing various resources.

5) Do not be pressured into making contributions. If an organization is legitimate they will not try to coerce or bully their way into getting people to donate.

6) Avoid cash donations if possible. Pay by credit card or write a check directly to the charity, not individuals.

7) Avoid organizations that won’t provide proof that a contribution is tax deductible

8) Look up the charity with the Better Business Bureau (BBB)

9) Never wire money to someone claiming to be a charity.


These are just a few tips when looking to donate. When in doubt, dig a little deeper.

When it comes to helping out after a natural disaster, monetary giving is the best way to support those in need. It is just important to do the research beforehand so you do not get scammed in the midst of your good intentions. If you want to donate items instead of money, the best way to do this is to go directly to places that are equipped to handle those items and needs.