Avoid scams when donating to Hurricane Harvey victims

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COLUMBIA - Mid-Missouri residents look for ways to help Hurricane Harvey victims, but the Better Business Bureau warns to do so with caution. Scam artists take advantage of disaster opportunities to steal money and the personal information from donors.

"Any major national emergency is fertile ground for scams," said Regional Director Sean Spence of the BBB. "Anytime we see a big thing happen, we see lots of scams to get donations."

Spence said it is best to donate with a credit card opposed to a debit card or cash. Credit cards usually make it easier to recover the money if fraudulent activity is detected.

"The number one red flag is if the organization reaches out to you instead of you reaching out to them," Spence said.

The risk of scams should not stop people from donating. Spence said to simply check the authenticity of the organization before sending any money. 

Avoid sending money through apps or text-in donations until you verify the organization's contact information. People wanting to donate to hurricane victims can check organization credentials online before making a contribution. 

American Red Cross External Communication Manager Joe Zydlo said the organization has set up offices to provide supplies, water and shelters.

Reputable organizations like the Salvation Army and American Red Cross encourage people to make monetary donations to continue relief efforts. The Salvation Army has disaster updates for people to see how their contribution is helping.

Missouri residents may look to donate blood to those affected. They should understand that their blood may not go directly to Hurricane Harvey victims but is still equally as important and needed.

"The Red Cross currently has an urgent need for blood donations across the country due to a summer decline in blood donors and blood drive sponsors," according to a Red Cross statement.