Hurricane Harvey: How to Help

The Internal Revenue Service issued a warning about possible fake charity scams emerging due to Hurricane Harvey and encouraged taxpayers to seek out recognized charitable groups for their donations.
While there has been an enormous wave of support across the country for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, people should be aware of criminals who look to take advantage of this generosity by impersonating charities to get money or private information from well-meaning taxpayers. Such fraudulent schemes may involve contact by telephone, social media, e-mail or in-person solicitations.
Criminals often send emails that steer recipients to bogus websites that appear to be affiliated with legitimate charitable causes. These sites frequently mimic the sites of, or use names similar to, legitimate charities, or claim to be affiliated with legitimate charities in order to persuade people to send money or provide personal financial information that can be used to steal identities or financial resources.
IRS.gov has the tools people need to quickly and easily check the status of charitable organizations.
The IRS cautions people wishing to make disaster-related charitable donations to avoid scam artists by following these tips:
  • Be sure to donate to recognized charities.
  • Be wary of charities with names that are similar to familiar or nationally known organizations. Some phony charities use names or websites that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations. The IRS website at IRS.gov has a search feature, Exempt Organizations Select Check, through which people may find qualified charities; donations to these charities may be tax-deductible.
  • Don’t give out personal financial information – such as Social Security numbers or credit card and bank account numbers and passwords – to anyone who solicits a contribution. Scam artists may use this information to steal a donor’s identity and money.
  • Never give or send cash. For security and tax record purposes, contribute by check or credit card or another way that provides documentation of the donation.
  • Consult IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, available on IRS.gov. This free booklet describes the tax rules that apply to making legitimate tax-deductible donations. Among other things, it also provides complete details on what records to keep.
Taxpayers suspecting fraud by email should visit IRS.gov and search for the keywords “Report Phishing.”

HOW TO DONATE TO LOCAL EFFORTS

It is in times of need that we discover the full impact of a community United. As Hurricane Harvey wreaks havoc on homes and communities across Southeastern Texas and Southwestern Louisiana – producing up to 50 inches of rain in some areas – United Ways across the region are helping families face devastating losses from the historic flooding with an eye toward long-term recovery.
United Way for Greater Houston has launched the United Way Relief Fund to help support their community in the aftermath of Harvey. The devastation will be great and their community will need incredible resources to recover. United Way’s first priority will be safety, shelter and basic needs, like food. Once the community is stabilized, United Way will focus on long-term recovery efforts. United Way of Greater Houston maintains a disaster reserve fund, which will be tapped for this storm, however because of the widespread devastation already seen, the needs of those impacted will far exceed existing resources. Year-round, United Way invests in their community’s first responders, like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, so they can respond quickly in times of disaster, as they are doing now. They will continue to support their efforts to provide immediate relief.
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As communities across Texas are facing Hurricane Harvey, United Ways across the state are there to help their communities in their recovery.  Local United Ways often coordinate a community’s response and make sure the most vulnerable have the help that they need. In addition, United Ways often invest in their community’s first responders so that they can act quickly when a storm arrives, or in other community partners who help individuals impacted with rebuilding their lives. United Ways and their partner agencies are a critical part of a community’s short and long-term recovery from a storm like Harvey.
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United Way of Southeast Louisiana announced Sunday the launch of the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund to aid in recovery efforts for areas affected by the storm – many of which are the same communities that provided relief assistance to the people of Southeast Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. All funds will support immediate relief and long-term recovery efforts through community grants to partners and nonprofit organizations providing direct services to assist with recovery. 
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The American Red Cross is working around the clock along the Gulf Coast to help the thousands of people whose lives have been devastated by Tropical Storm Harvey.
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As Hurricane Harvey causes widespread damage across Texas, The Salvation Army is ready to provide physical, emotional and spiritual care to survivors and relief workers. Salvation Army disaster teams from across the country are mobilizing and, even after disaster response efforts are over, The Salvation Army will remain in communities impacted by this terrible storm, supporting long-term disaster recovery efforts and providing ongoing assistance to those in need.
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For a comprehensive list of United Ways in Texas and Louisiana that are providing immediate and long-term relief, please click here.
If you or someone you know needs assistance, please call 2-1-1 or www.211.org
For a list of local hurricane relief drives, please call 2-1-1 or toll-free 1-888-421-1266