The death toll in wildfire-stricken Hawaii has passed 100 since disaster began over a week ago. Rebuilding what has been lost could take years, but the residents of Maui are in need of immediate relief.
For those who wish to help, deciding where to send donations can be a difficult task. Vetting a charity's reputation helps to ensure that your donations are going to those who need it — the Federal Trade Commission advises people to do their research before donating to an organization.
Deadly Maui Wildfires: How to protect your giving
To verify that a charity is not a scam, the FTC suggests using sites like Charity Navigator, BBB Wise Giving Alliance, and Charity Watch. Charities are required to register with a regulator in some states, and the IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search can tell you whether an organization is registered as a 501(c)3 non-profit. If a charity winds up being a scam, you can report it to the FTC.
Donating directly to people and causes on crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe can make measurable impacts on people's lives, and allows donors to know the names and faces of the people they are helping. However, the nature of crowdfunding sites opens the possibility for scammers to pose as people in need. Additionally, donations go to the crowdfunding site before reaching the recipient, so it is important for you to verify that your money will be received by end-recipients.
Although GoFundMe reports that over 99 percent of causes on the platform are legitimate, the possibility of users encountering a scam exists. To ensure that donations go to the right place in times of crisis, GoFundMe creates lists of verified fundraisers for disasters like the wildfires in Maui.
Finally, the FTC advises caution on phone callers asking for donations. If an organization asks you for donations, you should write the name of the charity down, and do research before donating. For all forms of charity, you should pay with credit card or check, and avoid using hard-to-track forms of payment like wire transfers, apps like Venmo and Zelle, and cryptocurrency.
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