AG’s office: Cash is best for Harvey donations, but be wary of scams

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Fabian Perez and his family escaped from their flooding home in Houston in the middle of the night.

“Nobody has shoes,” Perez told CBS News. “We just took whatever we could.”

Now Perez’s family, like so many in Texas, needs food, clothing, and shelter.

“I know a lot of people are going to want to donate clothing and things like that, but the best thing right now, if you want to make a donation, make a cash donation,” said Martha Crippen from the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit. “We highly recommend that you donate to those agencies that have the expertise in disaster relief.”

Some agencies recommended by the AG’s office include the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and Catholic Charities USA:

Crippen said in the wake of a disaster, it’s common for scammers to try to take advantage of generosity.

Fraudulent donation solicitations may come through the phone, social media, or an email.

“It’s always best not to respond to an unsolicited email which gives you a link,” Crippen said. “Go directly to that website.”

“We want you to help,” she added. “We don’t want you to lose money and become a victim yourself.”

Signs of a charity scam, according to the Federal Trade Commission:

  • Refuses to provide detailed information about its identity, mission, costs, and how the donation will be used.
  • Won’t provide proof that a contribution is tax deductible.
  • Uses a name that closely resembles that of a better-known, reputable organization.
  • Thanks you for a pledge you don’t remember making.
  • Uses high-pressure tactics like trying to get you to donate immediately, without giving you time to think about it and do your research.
  • Asks for donations in cash or asks you to wire money.
  • Offers to send a courier or overnight delivery service to collect the donation immediately.
  • Guarantees sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a contribution. By law, you never have to give a donation to be eligible to win a sweepstakes.

Click here to file a complaint if you think you have been the victim of a charity scam.

Susan Campbell (scampbell@wpri.com) is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.