Take these steps to ensure that your hurricane relief donation is put to good use.

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If you’ve been watching victims of Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Fiona on the news while they stand in the rubble that once was their home, you probably want to help in any way you can.

Most people can’t travel to the destruction that’s ravaged cities and neighborhoods to offer hands-on help with cleanup and other disaster relief. So, donating money is the hurricane relief go-to for many. Before you donate to hurricane Ian and hurricane Fiona relief, though, make sure that your donation isn’t going to a scammer or organization that won’t do what it promises.

“Charity fraud schemes can happen at any time, but they are especially prevalent after disasters,” warns the FBI. “Criminals use tragedies like Hurricane Ian to exploit those who want to help. Scammers will leverage a natural disaster to steal your money, your personal information or both.”

Want to donate to help hurricane Ian and hurricane Fiona victims? Read on for seven tips on how to donate where your money can help the most and avoid charity fraud scams.

1. Research the organization

Do an online search for reviews on the charity to which you plan to donate and search for the charity with state regulators of charities. Look up whether the charity is listed and accredited with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance and follows all 20 of the BBB charity standards.

If the charity isn’t listed with the BBB, it’s best to keep searching or at least investigate further to make sure the charity is legitimate and has a good track record of using funds as promised.

Find out: Ukraine Donation Scams: Choose Your Charity Wisely

2. Donate only to charities with a clear disaster appeal

“The contribution request should clearly identify what disaster relief activities you are supporting,” says the BBB. “There are many possibilities such as temporary shelter, food, medical care and other emergency needs. Don’t assume what they do based solely on the group’s name.”

3. Choose charities with a local presence

Charities that already have boots on the ground in the disaster region are more likely to be able to provide help quickly and offer immediate relief to those who need it most, according to the BBB Wise Giving Alliance.

4. Stick with familiar charities and organizations

When you see a natural or other disasters on the news, the American Red Cross is usually there offering support, comfort and financial assistance to disaster victims. So, you know that the Red Cross, which has an excellent reputation, is one you can trust. The same goes for other well-known organizations and charities that have stood the test of time and public scrutiny.

For a better chance of your donation going farther towards helping hurricane victims, donate to familiar charities with proven track records.

Find out: Which State has the Least Natural Disasters?

5. Use a credit card

Charging your donation to a credit card rather than a debit card is safer since most credit card companies have zero fraud liability policies. Never donate to a charity that requests a wire transfer or gift cards as payment, warns the FBI. After donating, continue to monitor your credit card accounts to make sure additional charges aren’t added by the charity.

6. Be careful with crowdfunding

Before donating to appeals on crowdfunding sites such as Go Fund Me, make sure the site has policies and procedures in place to vet postings after a disaster.

“Some crowdfunding sites take measures to vet postings after a disaster, others don’t. Review the site’s policies and procedures to find out,” advises the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. “If in doubt, it is always safest to donate to people who you personally know and trust.”

7. Donate more than once

If you can afford to donate more than once, the need will be there, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): “Recovery lasts a lot longer than media attention. There will be a volunteer and donation needs for many months, even years, to come.”

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

Published by Debt.com, LLC