Maui wildfires death toll rises, Lahaina recovery begins

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If you’re looking to donate money to help those affected by the wildfires in Hawaii, it’s important to follow certain steps to ensure your money is going to the right place.

Here are tips to make sure your donation is going to a legitimate charity:

How to pick the organization: Several sites help people find and support legitimate charities, including Charity Navigator, BBB Wise Giving Alliance and CharityWatch. Dig deeper into an organization’s reputation after finding a legitimate charity you’re considering supporting.

The US Federal Trade Commission suggests when conducting an online search of any charity, you should add the words “complaint,” “review,” “fraud,” or “scam” to the search terms. Doing this should bring up any bad reviews or red flags about the organization.

It’s also helpful to know if the group you’ve selected is registered as a 501(c)3, meaning it’s registered as a tax-exempt non-profit. Look up the organization in the IRS’s Tax Exempt Organization Search. If the charity is a registered 501(c)3, you may want to save a record of your contribution since it’s tax deductible.

When you feel confident about making your donation, it’s best to use a credit card or check, since those types of payments are easily traceable. After contributing to a charity, review your bank account and credit card statements to ensure you’ve only been charged the agreed-upon amount.

Tips for donating through a platform like GoFundMe: When donating through a platform like GoFundMe, ActBlue or WinRed, make sure to check whether the site is keeping some of your donation as a processing fee.

For many crowdfunding sites, your money will first go directly to the crowdfunding organizer, and not necessarily the end-recipient of the donations. So double-check that the organizer will pass along the funds to the person or cause they claim to be supporting.

Be on the lookout for scams: Don’t let anyone rush you into donating on the phone on the spot; take time to do the proper research. Never donate with a wire transfer or gift card, which is difficult to track if something goes awry. Also, if an organization insists on a donation using cryptocurrency, another hard-to-track form of payment, that should set off alarm bells. Avoid sending funds from payment apps like Venmo or Zelle. Those apps should only be used to send money to people you know, since it’s difficult to recoup funds once someone receives them.

CNN Impact Your World is raising money to support relief efforts in Maui. Click here to help.

Read more on how to help Hawaii here.


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