We have all seen the photos and the videos of the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey. The numbers are staggering. According to reports, by the time the storm will end, 25 trillion gallons of rain will have been dumped on Texas. It’s also estimated that nearly a half-million people will be asking the federal government for disaster assistance and over 30,000 people will need temporary shelter. The numbers are mind-boggling.
Whenever there is a natural disaster no matter where it is in the world, Americans open up their hearts and checkbooks to the victims. Unfortunately, whenever there is a natural disaster, what also happens is that the lowlifes in our society come out of the woodwork seeking to take advantage of our good nature. The number of scams regarding charities increases dramatically in times of crisis. In fact, you are already starting to see bogus websites and bogus charities attempting to solicit money because of Harvey. Because the lowlifes know the generosity of the American people, it is important that if you are thinking about helping the victims in Texas, before you contribute your hard-earned money, you think with your head and not just your heart.
With the technology that exists today, scam artists don’t have to be in the United States to take advantage of you; they can be anywhere around the world. After all, it doesn’t take much to establish a website that looks professional with pictures of children, the elderly and pets in need. These pictures are meant to pull at your heartstrings and to get you to think with your heart versus your head. I cannot stress enough that you cannot let these pictures sway you to let your guard down. This is exactly what the scam artists want.
I believe that before you contribute to a charity, you need to make sure the charity is legitimate. What many of these scam artists do is use a name that sounds like a legitimate established charity, but it’s not. That is why you have to check out charities independently before you write them a check. Two websites I use with a wealth of information about charities are www.charitynavigator.org or www.give.org. Both of these websites are independent and have a wealth of information regarding charities.
It’s important to realize that when it comes to charities, it’s not sufficient just to prune out the illegitimate from the legitimate charities. Unfortunately, you can have a legitimate charity that is not run efficiently in that most of its money goes for administrative and marketing purposes rather than charitable purposes. My view is that those charities should also be avoided because after all, you want the great bulk of your money going toward the charitable purpose itself, not other areas. Therefore, even if you know you are dealing with a legitimate charity, it is important to do your homework to make sure the legitimate charity is spending your money wisely.
One of the methods that these scam artists use is to send you an email solicitation with graphic pictures hoping that you will link to their website. When you link to their site, they attack your computer, thus, allowing them to steal sensitive information. If you think it’s a legitimate charity and you want to pursue it, you still should not directly link to that site; rather, it would be much more prudent to type the information into your browser. By doing it this way you are providing yourself a level of protection if the charity is not legitimate.
It is a shame that people take advantage of others’ good nature. However, it is what it is. We see it after every natural disaster and unfortunately, it is going to continue. Therefore, it is important to protect yourself and think with your head when it comes to charities, not with your heart. Americans are the most generous and charitable people on the face of the earth. It’s in our DNA as Americans to want to help others. Unfortunately, the crooks and the lowlifes also recognize this and come out of the woodwork whenever there is a natural disaster. Therefore, it is important that we don’t let our guard down and do our homework, so our hard-earned money helps those who are truly in need.
If you would like Rick to respond to your questions, please email him at Rick@bloomassetmanagement.com.