In many ways, a natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy brings out the best in people. We may fight and squawk and call each other names, but when something happens that shows us just how frail human beings are in the face of the natures violence, we pull together.
Already we are seeing stories from the East Coast of courage, and sacrifice, and people making the choice to make a difference.
Unfortunately, disasters can also bring out the worst in us. To my mind, there isn’t much lower that a human being can sink than to exploit his or her fellow human’s desire to help. But people do sink that low, and it happens every time.
I am not going to try to tell anyone what charities are legitimate and which are frauds. I haven’t done the research myself, and anyway, why should my word be any good? Most of you reading this don’t know me.
What I will do is ask anyone reading this to take a moment to check out a charity before sending your money to it. As sickening as it is to contemplate, there are those who will use other people’s suffering to enrich themselves.
Anyone can put together a website with photographs taken from news stories and text designed to tug on your heartstrings. Just because people use words like “compassionate” and “relief” doesn’t mean that they won’t take money earmarked for helping people and keep it for themselves. It happened after 9/11, it happened after Katrina, and I’ll bet it’s happening now. I hope I’m wrong, but I doubt I am.
How can we tell the difference between charity and fraud? Well, part of it is in the track record of the organization. There are charitable organizations that have existed for years that are stepping up right now. I personally prefer to trust them.
There’s also internet searches on an organization’s name–particularly if they claim to be “authorized” or “endorsed” by a famous person or organization. Once again, just because it’s on a website doesn’t make it so.
Most of all, whenever possible, get information from individuals in the affected area. As power is being restored, more and more survivors are coming forward with their stories. Read what people on the ground say, who has helped them, what is actually going on.
Just my thoughts, not meant to disparage any groups that are soliciting funds. As I say, my word isn’t any better than anything else on the internet. Trust, but verify.
Sometimes our hearts outrace our heads, and unfortunately some people have been known to take advantage of that.