Hurricane Harvey charity scams and hoaxes - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Hurricane Harvey charity scams and hoaxes

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TEXAS - As we continue to see the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey's destruction, scammers and internet trolls have already begun to take advantage of well-meaning people trying to donate to good causes.

Reporter Rex Carlin learned how people can know their money is going to a real charity instead of a fraud.

First, as a general rule, you shouldn't ever donate to a charity you've never heard of before. Fake charities tend to pop up around times of tragedy, so you may receive phone calls or emails asking for your donation. If you haven't worked with a group previously, events like Hurricane Harvey shouldn't be the time to branch out to new charities.

Secondly, always do your homework before donating, even if you believe you know who you're donating to.

Experts say don't feel pressured to give cash...if a charity can't take a credit card, they most likely aren't legitimate. 

Don't ever give out your social security number, and this one is important: if someone doesn't give you the opportunity to take some time to verify their charity, they probably aren't a real charity.

Also, there's been some photos online recently claiming to be photos taken in the Houston area. One photo depicts a shark swimming on a freeway in Houston, but it isn't real. This and similar photos show up online seemingly every time a hurricane makes the news. Another photo is trying to convince people one of the Houston airports has flooded so much the planes are floating on the airport's tarmac. In reality, this is a mock-up of what a climate change group estimated New York's Laugaurdia Airport would look like if the sea level rises 25 feet in the next 80 years...so this isn't even a fake photo of any airport in Houston.

Be careful what you share online, and be careful who you donate to in times of tragedy like the Houston area is experiencing now with Hurricane Harvey.

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