MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - You see the devastation. You hear the families' stories. You want to do something.
But, consumer advocates like the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South are already picking out fake crowdfunding sources and dubious actors pretending to be legitimate charities or relief agencies serving the victims of Hurricane Harvey. The bureau and its Wise Giving Alliance recommended you follow these guidelines for making sure your money goes to the real help:
* SEE IF THE CHARITY HAS AN ON-THE-GROUND PRESENCE AT THE DISASTER. Without one already in place, it may be difficult for the soliciting charity to actually do anything directly for the disaster's victims.
* FIND OUT IF THE CHARITY IS PROVIDING DIRECT AID OR RAISING MONEY FOR OTHER GROUPS. If the charity is just passing your donations on to another relief agency, the bureau suggested "avoiding the middleman" and giving instead to those who are providing direct assistance.
* BE CAUTIOUS ABOUT GIVING IN-KIND DONATIONS LIKE FOOD AND CLOTHING. Money is always better -- and more accountable. In-kind donations are more difficult to track.
* UNDERSTAND CROWDFUNDING. Crowdfunding website administrators do almost nothing to vet the individuals who set up funding sites. They're easy to fake. You're better off giving to either someone you know personally or someone you can easily verify is a person in need.
* KNOW THE PHASES OF DISASTER RELIEF. Rescue, emergency relief, recovery. Each requires funding and support. Just because one phase is over doesn't mean the need for relief is.