Want to help Dorian victims? Beware of scammers

Massive storms like Hurricane Dorian may be unpredictable, and Montgomery County, Maryland’s, Office of Consumer Protection said you can be sure of one thing when natural disasters strike: The scammers get to work.

From fraudulent appeals for direct donations on social media to websites that offer few details about an organization claiming to be a charity, fake charity operators have gotten creative, said Eric Friedman, the director of the county’s Office of Consumer Protection.

So when considering donating to hurricane relief efforts, do a little homework, Friedman advised. But where do you start?

Every state has an office that regulates charities.

In Maryland for example, the secretary of state registers and monitors charitable organizations. In Virginia, the Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs keeps tabs on organizations soliciting contributions.

There are also websites that report on charity operations. The Better Business Bureau has a website, Friedman said, as does Guidestar, an “in-depth research tool.”

By visiting the Guidestar site, Friedman explained, “You can find out how much of a donation actually goes to the cause versus how much goes to administrative fees and things of that sort.” Guidestar also provides information on the tax filings that charities are required to file.

You shouldn’t feel guilty about being skeptical when being solicited for money, especially in the aftermath of an emergency, consumer advocates say.

“You know, we all get very emotional with these kind of natural disasters, and that’s certainly understandable,” said Friedman, “But don’t act in haste when making a donation.”

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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