BBB warns of disaster scams following Harvey

CBS Newspath

NEW YORK — The people in Houston and other parts of the Gulf Coast are in desperate need of help and many Americans are stepping up to do just that. But consumer advocates warn con artists are also ready to take advantage.

Claire Rosenzweig with the Better Business Bureau said that generosity can be a target for scammers.

“We want to help the people that are being victimized. At the same time, that impulse is what a scammer is looking for.”

During a disaster scam, con artists will call, text and send fake emails asking for donations. Some even create websites that are so well done they look like the real deal.

“Unfortunately, you have unscrupulous people who try to help themselves, and its’ horrible, but they’ll do it.”

In 2013, New Jersey’s attorney general went after the creators of a website which claimed to help victims of Hurricane Sandy.  At the time authorities said only one percent of the $600,000 raised had been distributed.

Rosenzweig said it’s important to vet any charity before giving.

“If somebody calls you on the phone asking for money for Hurricane Harvey, just hang up. If somebody sends you a text and you don’t know who they are don’t even bother with it. Go with the verified sites, go to the verified charities.”

The BBB has set up a list of verified charity sites. Using those will help make sure your money gets to the right people.

Look up a charity here