NEW YORK - The devastation in Puerto Rico has many people feeling helpless and wanting to do what they can, but some thieves are preying on that emotion.
Dozens of complaints have been filed from impersonators at people's doors to high pressure callers requesting money for hurricane ravaged areas.
The need is immense, so many are anxious not just to donate money but also collect food, water and medicine along with basics like soap, shampoo, diapers, clothing and shoes.
There are a number of ways to donate from sending supplies for direct relief to sending money through many agencies and charities on the ground in Puerto Rico and across the Caribbean and Texas, which were also hard hit by mother nature this hurricane season and struggling to recover.
To make sure your money gets to the people in need you have to INVESTIGATE before you DONATE.
Legislators and their constituents in the New York Area report an uptick in scammers playing on your heartstrings to get you to open your purse strings .
"My message would be to care with care and make sure you bet who's calling you, who's writing you. The National Hispanic Federation is internationally known organization as well as the NY State Assembly Puerto Rican American task force are reputable charities on the ground," New York Assemblywoman Rebecca A. Seawright said.
The Assemblywoman spoke at her Upper East Side offices, where a constituent said her phone's ringing relentlessly with scammers asking for her credit card number.
"I would say i get between 6-8 calls a day," said Upper East Sider Helene Goldfarb. "(They're) asking for money and even if I know who the charity is and given to them before. My response is I don't do anything over the phone if you want money send me a note."
That's a smart move everyone should follow these best practices as well.
1) Research charities first. Websites such Guidestar and Charity Navigator rate charities.
2) Don't always trust posts you see on social media. Often these are fake or set up to look like well-known charities and divert your money.
3) Be wary of door knockers claiming to represent charities with fake id.
Here are more good tips, provided by the Department of Justice:
Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming e-mails, including clicking links contained within those messages, because they may contain computer viruses.
Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as members of charitable organizations or officials asking for donations via e-mail or social networking sites.
Beware of organizations with copy-cat names similar to but not exactly the same as those of reputable charities.
Rather than follow a purported link to a website, verify the legitimacy of nonprofit organizations by utilizing various Internet-based resources that may assist in confirming the group's existence and its nonprofit status.
Be cautious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files because the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
To ensure contributions are received and used for intended purposes, make contributions directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf.
Do not be pressured into making contributions; reputable charities do not use such tactics.
Be aware of whom you are dealing with when providing your personal and financial information. Providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.
Avoid cash donations if possible. Pay by credit card or write a check directly to the charity. Do not make checks payable to individuals.
Legitimate charities do not normally solicit donations via money transfer services. Most legitimate charities' websites end in .org rather than .com.