Last week’s devastation from Hurricane Harvey is still being felt up and down the Texas Gulf Coast. Southeast Texas has experienced historic flooding that has destroyed homes, displaced families, and disrupted businesses across the area. Throughout the chaos, our spirits were lifted by the outpouring of support from members of the community. Friends and strangers alike came to the assistance of their neighbors, rescuing them from their homes, providing clothing and shelter to those directly impacted, and helping with the cleanup efforts.
Now that the initial shock has begun to subside our city is shifting toward recovery. It will be a long road ahead and there remains a great number of people who are in need. The outpouring of support both locally and across the country (even worldwide) has been quite uplifting. For those who wish to continue to provide that much-needed support, it is important that you carefully choose the avenues in which you plan to do so. Unfortunately, there are people who wish to take advantage of those directly impacted and the good folks who want to lend a helping hand.
Given the widespread damage to homes in the area, local officials and law enforcement emphasize the importance of carefully vetting any contractors chosen to make repairs and renovations. It is recommended that consumers verify a company’s credentials through the Better Business Bureau of Houston. They also recommend that consumers avoid paying large sums of money upfront before the work is complete. Lastly, be on the lookout for individuals attempting to impersonate law enforcement & FEMA officials and pressuring people to give them personal information or pay for damage inspections.
If you’re interested in providing monetary support, it is important to choose your designated charity carefully. Disasters like Harvey are notorious for instances of charity fraud. Using a tool such as Charity Navigator can help you assess a charity based on several criteria, such as tax status, length of operation, public support, and much more. You may also consider donating appreciated stock to a Donor Advised Fund (DAF), or making a charitable Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from your IRA if you’re over age 70 ½.
If you suspect you or someone you know may be a victim of fraud, here are a few resources you can use:
- Call the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Visit FEMA’s Rumor Central page for up-to-date information on Hurricane Harvey
- File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau
People across Southeast Texas are beginning to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. There is a tremendous need for support and from what we’ve seen so far, an even greater desire to give it. However, it remains important to keep up your guard and protect yourself and those impacted from fraudsters. Given enough time and assistance, our area will recover and become even stronger than it was before.