Color of Money: Don't be fooled by Hurricane Harvey flood scams

Michelle Singletary on

-- Be careful of online fundraising efforts. Scammers will try to appear as if they represent legit charities. Really, just don't respond to unsolicited telephone calls or click any links you get via email or that you see online. If you think a request may be real, independently look for contact information for the organization and contribute directly.

Just in the last few days, multiple pages were established for Hurricane Harvey victim Jeremiah Richard and his family, prompting Richard to put out this note on the page he created ( "I was just told there are people making fake fund me pages on my behalf. PLEASE SHARE THE LINK TO THE OFFICIAL PAGE." (

Richard, his wife and their two sons had to be airlifted from their flooded apartment building. You can watch their dramatic helicopter rescue captured by the local ABC station KTRK at "We came home," he said. "It wasn't raining, and 45 minutes later we in a flood."

On seeing comments about other accounts for the Richard family, one person wrote, "I will donate directly to them. But I will not support scammers."

I reached out to Richard, and he confirmed in an email his concern about the other campaigns. "Yeah a lot of people have been trying to contact me making sure they have the right page."

In advance of Harvey, GoFundMe created a Medium post about safety measures being taken to protect donors. Before you give please read the post:

"We have multiple technical tools to verify a beneficiary's identity and the information about the campaign prior to the transfer of funds," said Bobby Whithorne, a spokesman for GoFundMe. "We are also monitoring all campaign organizers related to Harvey."

In cases like the Richard family, where multiple people create a campaign, Whithorne said the site has the ability to combine the multiple fundraising efforts. "We'll work with the campaign organizers and the beneficiaries to make sure the money is routed to the proper account."

To view all Harvey related GoFundMe campaigns go to

My plea to you is please don't become a victim. The more folks fall for disaster scams, the more emboldened the con artists become.

Be wise with your giving. Don't let your heart get in the way of helping in the right way.


Readers can write to Michelle Singletary c/o The Washington Post, 1301 K St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071. Her email address is Follow her on Twitter (@SingletaryM) or Facebook ( Comments and questions are welcome, but due to the volume of mail, personal responses may not be possible. Please also note comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer's name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group



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