University of Wisconsin–Madison
Hurricane Harvey's aftermath. Flooded neighborhoods, rescues by boat, military assistance, crying children images.

Advice for helping Hurricane Harvey victims

As Hurricane Harvey continues to pummel and devastate the southern United States, thoughts turn to how we can help. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) urge you to be cautious of charity scams and do your research before giving to online charities. Charity scams will often use fraudulent emails containing links or attachments that could direct you to malware-infected websites.

The FTC’s guidelines for wise giving include:

  • Donate to charities you know and trust with a proven track record with dealing with disasters.
  • Be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight in connection with current events. Check out the charity with the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.
  • Designate the disaster so you can ensure your funds are going to disaster relief, rather than a general fund.
  • Never click on links or open attachments in e-mails unless you know who sent it. You could unknowingly install malware on your computer.
  • Don’t assume that charity messages posted on social media are legitimate. Research the organization yourself.
  • When texting to donate, confirm the number with the source before you donate. The charge will show up on your mobile phone bill, but donations are not immediate.

For more information on how to give generously but also wisely, see the FTC’s Advice for Helping Hurricane Harvey Victims and the US-CERT’s Potential Hurricane Harvey Phishing Scams.

If you see a phishing attempt or suspicious email that you suspect may be a scam, please report it to and contact if you have any questions.