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HOUSTON (CBSMiami) — The people in Houston and other parts of the Gulf Coast are in desperately need of help but while many Americans want to donate, consumer advocates say con artists are ready to take advantage.

gettyimages 840328108 Harvey Scams: Your Generosity Can Be A Target For Con Artists

Volunteers sort through donated clothing at a shelter in the George R. Brown Convention Center during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey on August 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Across the country, Americans have responded to the suffering of Hurricane Harvey victims by giving money. However, Claire Rosenzweig, President & CEO with the Better Business Bureau, said that generosity can be a target for scammers.

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

During a disaster scam, she said, con-artists will call, text and send fake emails asking for donations. Victims also fall prey to look-a-like charity websites.

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

In 2013, New Jersey’s attorney general went after the creators of a website claiming to help victims of Hurricane Sandy. At the time, authorities said only 1 percent of the $600,000 raised had been distributed.

gettyimages 840685028 Harvey Scams: Your Generosity Can Be A Target For Con Artists

Volunteers load cases of water. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Rosenzweig said it’s important to vet any charity.

“If somebody calls you on the phone, asking for money for Hurricane Harvey, just hang up,” she suggested. “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.


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