When donating for Harvey relief, be very careful

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TOLEDO - (13abc, Action News) - People across the country are calling and donating money to help with disaster relief related to Hurricane Harvey.

the NW Ohio Chapter of the American Red Cross holds phone banks where, "As soon as yo hang up, the phone it rings again and people are so emotional on the phone," the executive director says.

And callers are generous. The average donation to the Red Cross phone bank is $50. The Red Cross is a reputable organization. Ninety-one cents on the dollar goes to disaster relief.

Rachel Hepner-Zawodny, the executive director with the local Red Cross chapter says, "We don't get any federal funding so we rely on financial contributions from our donors."

And donors are popping up and giving their money.

You don't have to worry about giving money to the Red Cross, but some so-called charities are a rip off.

Richard Eppstein, president of the Better Business Bureau in Toledo says, "Some of these organizations we've never heard of and we have no track record of and frankly, some of them are just scams. They're stealing money."

The BBB sees scammers take advantage during disasters like this.

Whether it is 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina or now Hurricane Harvey, people want to give.

Eppstein says, "You don't want to waste your money. You want your money to help."

So he says be very careful about where you send your money.

The BBB advises ignoring any email or crowd sourcing appeals. They recommend sticking with known brands that do disaster relief as their mission, like the Red Cross, Salvation Army and the United Way.

Eppstein says, "That's the best way to know the help is getting there as fast as possible and that the people providing the help know what they're doing."

We all want to help Houston, but some want to help themselves.

So do some research, then reach out.

Here are a few ways you can determine whether you should give to an organization.

-Verify the trustworthiness of charitable organizations by logging onto Give.org.
-See if the organization has on-the-ground assets in the impacted area.
-Ask if the group is providing direct aid or simply raising money for other groups.
-Ask the charity about it's transportation and distribution capabilities if you are giving food or clothing or supplies.

The BBB also publishes "Wise Giving", a brochure that lists hundreds of charitable organizations and determines those that meet BBB standards and those that do not.

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