JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- As relief efforts make their way across Hurricane Michael's path of destruction, volunteers and organizations are collecting donations and offering their services, but be wary of scam artists and identity thieves.
Shannon Nelson is with the Better Business Bureau in Jacksonville. With their offices in the panhandle out of commission, she is stepping in to help and she’s keeping an out for scams.
"Anytime there is a natural disaster people are encouraged to give but there will always be people who take advantage of our openness," said Nelson.
When it comes to online fundraisers like Go Fund Me, she recommends doing your own vetting by reaching out to the host of the fundraiser or the person who shared the link. She also advises checking the terms and conditions to see how your donation could be effected.
"You know, do you know that person directly or do you know the person who shared it? It can be a wonderful thing for those people, they have immediate needs that charities might not be able to get to them, but it comes with setbacks and downfalls as well."
To be safe, she recommends donating to an experienced organization with a 501(c)(3) designation and confirming if they are a BBB accredited charity. Be cautious of newly established groups or those with vague descriptions of how they intend to help.
If she does find a scam in the coming days, she will post it to the BBB’s social media pages.
She will also be posting about fundraisers that are legitimate, like Volunteer Florida.
You can check out any organization on www.Give.org. She also suggests blood donations as a great way to help after a disaster.
FEMA also wants to warn families impacted by the hurricane that they could be victims of scams. They ask that an suspicious activity be reported.