After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, many are wondering how they can help. At the same time, criminals are using this outpouring of support to take advantage of well-meaning citizens through deception and fraud.
People who wish to contribute to the relief effort are urged to beware of charity scams, which are especially prevalent online. Consumer advocates offer the following advice:
* Make sure the organization is legitimate. Some illicit organizations will try to confuse you by using a name that is similar to a well-known charity. Do your research to find a reputable charity. For a list of charity reports, visit the BBB Wise Giving Alliance Web site, www.give.org.
* Never respond to or click on a link within an e-mail asking for money and claiming to be from a charity. If you wish to make a donation online, stick with familiar, established charities and donate through their Web sites directly.
* Be skeptical of telephone solicitations. Never give out your personal or credit card information. Ask for a charity's exact name and address. After researching the organization, call back using its published number if you would like to get more information by phone.
* Give a check or money order made out to the organization, not an individual.
What are the best ways to help? The following is a partial list of organizations:
American Red Cross
Provides emergency shelter, food, water and other critical assistance.
America's Second Harvest
Donations help transport food to victims and secure additional warehouse space to assist member food banks in resuming and maintaining operations.
Habitat for Humanity
Helps repair and rebuild homes damaged by the hurricane.
Provides food, drinking water, cleaning supplies and other necessities.
Convoy of Hope
Provides supplies and other disaster relief, sponsoring outreaches to the poor and suffering.
Humane Society of the United States
www.hsus.org - NU