Don't get scammed when making donation to Sandy victims

By Amy Davis - Reporter/Consumer Expert

HOUSTON - While disasters like Superstorm Sandy bring out the best in people who want to help, they also bring out scam artists trying to make a buck off of the tragedy.

There are things you can do (or not do) to make sure your donation gets to the people who really need it.

A search for "Hurricane Sandy relief" brings up hundreds of millions of results online. You can donate with the click of a mouse. But should you?

"You do need to be thinking cautiously about this and not just give money to any group that seems maybe very well intentioned. They may not have the resources to the people who need it or they may just be an outright scam," said Leah Napoliello of the Houston Better Business Bureau.

The BBB advises consumers against donating online. If you must, make sure you go directly to the website of a legitimate charity instead of clicking on a link that you may see in an email or on Facebook. Some scammers are setting up sites that impersonate well-known charities.

"And they're going to try to get people to give to them and their scam instead of to an actual legitimate charity," explained Napoliello.

Families without power, gas or food no doubt need help, but the American Red Cross cautions you want to make sure your help actually gets to the victims up north.

"One thing that the Red Cross does see periodically for disasters like this is folks will stand out on street corners with buckets and claim that they're with the American Red Cross and collecting funds on our behalf," said Cameron Ballantyne. "I can tell you that that's not a practice we're ever involved with."

You can research any charity before you give through the BBB's Wise Giving Alliance.

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