AG MacDonald: Be giving, but be careful

Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald releases the following statement regarding Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath:

We encourage all New Hampshire citizens who wish to assist those in need in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey to do so. However, it is important to be cautious before making a gift.  Unfortunately, every time a disaster strikes, there are scam artists who take advantage of people’s good intentions and set up fake appeals to assist those in need. Following these steps will increase the likelihood that your donation will actually reach people in need in Texas.

Give to well-recognized charities that have a track record of service, such as the American Red Cross, United Way of Greater Houston or the SPCA of Texas. For larger charities, check out their reputation on Charity Navigator, Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance or GuideStar. Research the organization’s website.

Unless you know the people seeking donations, think twice before giving to individuals raising money through online giving sites such as GoFundMe, CrowdRise or YouCaring.  You cannot be sure that your gift will be used as intended, plus donations to individuals are not tax deductible. Instead, look for online giving campaigns, whether appearing on GoFundMe, Facebook or elsewhere that benefit charitable organizations assisting a larger number of people.

Again, check out the organization that will receive the money. Sometimes celebrities lend their name to fundraising efforts by organizing peer-to-peer crowdfunding campaigns shared on social media. Some celebrities are already raising money for Texas flood relief. Before clicking to give, research precisely who will receive the donation. You may find that it may not be a charitable organization.

Be especially cautious if you receive an email message or telephone call asking for money for Texas flood relief. Do not give on the spot. Research the organization before you agree to give. Do not give out credit card information over the telephone.

In sum, New Hampshire citizens can make a difference by donating to assist those who need help in Texas. However, it is important to do your homework before making a gift. If citizens have questions, they should call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-888-468-4454.