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Scam alert: How to help hurricane victims without getting ripped off

The images of the devastation in Puerto Rico are heartbreaking and there are ways you can help. But do your research before you donate.

HOUSTON — The damage from Hurricane Fiona has devastated Puerto Rico with flooding and widespread power outagesGrassroots organizations on the island are taking donations to help those without electricity and running water.

"We are still in the zone of danger and not out and about," said Dr. Michelle Carlo, Medical Advisor for Direct Relief in Puerto Rico.

Direct Relief is a Better Business Bureau accredited group that has volunteers on the ground. They’re helping hospitals forced to run on generators.

"The comprehensive cancer hospital’s generator failed,” Dr Carlo explained. “So they had to in the middle of the storm move patients from one hospital to the other."

But there are other groups trying to take advantage of well-intentioned donors by taking their money. Before you donate to any charities, the BBB has some tips to help protect you and your money because scammers are paying attention.

"People want to help in any way they can and sadly scammers take advantage of that vulnerability to deceive donors," said Kristen Johnson with the BBB.

"If they don't have boots on the ground, how are they going to get your donation to the people who need it the most?" Johnson advised. "Look for experienced charities that can provide fast relief."

BBB tips to avoid hurricane scammers

  • Do your research and donate to charities directly instead of crowdfunding.
  • Use a credit card and avoid sending money through a peer-to-peer app.
  • Pay attention to red flags and be on the lookout for copycat websites.
  • The BBB also suggests using its website www.bbb.org to make sure the organization you want to donate to is legitimate.

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