AG Frosh: Be wary of hurricane disaster scams

Posted at 11:25 PM, Sep 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-12 23:25:52-04

We've seen what Irma did to the islands and Florida.  Just before that, Harvey devastated Texas. With these disasters comes the generosity of people wanting to help those who've lost everything but experts say be careful.

Right now everyone from Maryland's Attorney General, and Secretary of State to the Better Business Bureau are warning people about disaster scams.

Thousands want to help, but experts say, do your homework before opening your wallet.

"There are the predators of the victims themselves and then there's the scams on those of us who haven't been victimized directly," Angie Barnett of the Better Business Bureau told ABC2.

But that's where most of us fall.  We want to reach out and give when disasters like hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit.

Barnett continues, "We have this sense of wanting to be to be part of a solution for those who were hit by these two storms."

Harvey and Irma devastated communities and took lives.  Florida, Houston and many Caribbean islands left decimated.  Every where you turn, there's the urge to give and help, but use caution.

"We want to make sure were giving to those that we feel comfortable with and we know they're going to give the direct relief," Barneet said.

Maryland's Secretary of State John Wobensmith is warning people to watch for scammers and to use this website with a public registry of charitable organizations authorized to solicit funds.  Attorney General Brian Frosh urged people to be vigilant as they open their wallets saying in part:
"Unsolicited investment offers seeking to capitalize on the aftermath of natural disasters should always be approached with a wary eye." 

Websites asking for hurricane relief should be verified before donating, stick with reputable organizations.

"You are giving directly to that organization and not to a middle man," Barnett said.

Crowd funding donations should be verified as well.  If in doubt, give to a cause you're sure about. Text and email solicitations are always red flags; and always make sure you're giving to organizations helping with relief efforts directly.

"We want to give to charities that have boots on the ground.  By that, it's people or organizations that are used to serving in disaster areas this is what they do, this is part of their mission." said Barnett.

Barnett also says that it's not just donors that can be scammed.  Those in the disaster zone face a slew of insurance, repair and fraud scams. 

If you're in doubt about where to donate, contact the organization or the Better Business Bureau directly."

Click here for more ways on how to donate safely.