Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is encouraging New Yorkers to assist relief efforts, and released important information for New Yorkers planning to donate to organizations that are helping victims of Hurricane Matthew.
"During the past few days, New Yorkers have seen images of people leaving their homes and belongings behind as they wade through flood waters left in Matthew's path. Many New Yorkers are eager to help the people who are victims of the hurricane's devastation as they seek safety and face the challenges of rebuilding their lives," Schneiderman said. "This office encourages such generosity, and will work with New Yorkers to ensure that their donations are protected. People who plan to contribute to charities that provide disaster relief should be sure to review these tips to protect themselves and ensure help goes where it is intended."
The A.G. offered the following tips for those contributing to the relief effort:
•Give to Established Charities. Donate to organizations you are familiar with, or have an experience assisting in disaster relief. Get information about charities that pop up solely in response to the hurricane or those with unfamiliar names.
•Look Charities Up. Review information about the charity before you give. If the charity is soliciting in New York, the charity must be registered with the office of the attorney general's charities bureau. Check the attorney general's website - www.charitiesnys.com - to review tax returns and audit reports. Confirm the charity is a recognized tax-exempt organization.
The following websites contain helpful information to evaluate charities:
•Be Cautious With Telephone Solicitations. Ask if the person soliciting is "a paid fundraiser." If yes, ask if he or she is registered in New York. If not, do not contribute.
•Before You Text A Contribution. Check the charity's website or call the charity to confirm it has authorized contributions to be made via text message. One thing to keep in mind is that donations via text messaging may not reach the charity until after your phone bill is paid. It may be faster to contribute directly to the charity.
•Ask How Your Donation Will Be Used. Ask specifically how the charity plans to use your donation, including the services and organizations your donation will support. Ask if the charity already has worked in the local area or has relationships with any local relief organizations. Also, ask what the charity plans to do with any excess donations. Avoid charities that make emotional appeals, but are vague in answering your questions. Be wary if an organization will not provide written information about charitable programs and finances upon request. Any legitimate organization will be glad to send you this information.
•Avoid Unsolicited Spam Emails. These formats are usually not associated with legitimate charities. Check the Department of Homeland Security's tips, such as "Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks," which are posted at http://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/tips/ST04-014.
•Never Give Cash. Give your contribution by credit card or a check made payable to the charity.
•Be Careful About Personal Information. Avoid giving credit card or personal information over the phone or by text message. In all cases, make sure you are familiar with the organization and check to see that the fundraising campaign is legitimate.
•Report Suspicious Organizations. If you believe an organization is misrepresenting its work, or that a scam is taking place, contact the attorney general's charities bureau at [email protected] or 212-416-8401.