False Donation Websites Spring Up Following Hurricane Disasters

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EDINBURG – Generous people are falling prey to online crooks in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and Irma. Here are a few tips you can keep in mind to stay safe.

Sayeed Wadud and his family immigrated to Texas in 2001. He began working as a first responder.

Wadud spent five years as a volunteer firefighter for the Edinburg Fire Department. He said the call to serve comes from deep within.

"It's my inner feeling, I was probably born with that. Like, you know, I hate to see people suffering," Wadud told CHANNEL 5 NEWS.

He said he has many impactful memories from his time as a rescuer. One of those memories is rushing to Galveston to save those rocked by hurricane Ike in 2008.

He explained his physical condition won't allow him to be on the front line any longer. Now, he plans to help those affected by hurricanes in different ways.

“I wish you know that I could do more. I’m thinking of, you know, thinking of another way that I can send money in which I can donate," he explained.

Former FBI intelligence analyst and cyber expert Ray Mendoza said in moments like these internet crooks feed on people’s emotion.

Mendoza told CHANNEL 5 NEWS many of those bandits create links to accounts they claim will be used to help those in need. He said the problem is many times they are not regulated.

"Which are third-party funding accounts, they are under no obligation to ensure that the person asking for money will commit or provide what they are saying they are going to provide," Mendoza said.

Mendoza explained to avoid falling prey to online predators, only give to organizations and non-profits that are well known.

He said when it comes to donating money online; a little research goes a long way.

"You can always check on the IRS website - irs.gov - and they have a section on there where you can type in a charity name and it will let you know if it's a non-profit charter or not," Mendoza explained.

Mendoza said if anyone wants to take it a step further you can go to a website named give.org. He said people can see a rating of your chosen charity and what percentage of the proceeds they collect go to those in need.

Wadud said he plans on playing it safe and donating to a well-known organization he can trust.

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