Our Voice: Be generous, not gullible, in your typhoon relief gifts

November 15, 2013 

Super typhoon Hayian in the Philippines has killed an estimated 10,000 people and left another 600,000 in dire conditions. In all, 9.7 million people were affected.

We suspect the death toll will continue to climb as people suffer through the aftermath.

Rescue efforts are hampered by the destruction of roads and airports -- and pillaging is rampant.

Even though many people throughout the world want to help, it's proving difficult to get the relief to those in need on this island nation.

Natural disasters are powerful reminders of how powerless we really are.

When disaster strikes somewhere in the world, it is only natural to want to help. Sometimes it's hard to know how to translate those good intentions into truly helping hands.

Be careful of any postings on your Facebook page encouraging you to clean out your closet and send your old shoes or teddy bears to the Philippines.

Said author Jessica Alexander, "Wanting to help victims of a massive disaster is a human instinct that should be lauded. But unfortunately, well-meaning people repeatedly get it wrong. And this time around it seems that some are already responding in unsuitable ways."

Alexander said these items are counter-productive and often are abandoned by the roadside.

If you want to help: Send money.

Unfortunately, it's also easy to divert money away from your intended recipients.

With technology, it's easier than ever to give with just a few clicks of a mouse. For example, for your convenience you can donate to the American Red Cross on your Facebook page or through iTunes. Ebay is accepting donations for five different relief charities. The White House has created a website -- whitehouse.gov/typhoon -- with links to relief organizations.

As a word of caution, any time you want to donate money to a cause -- any cause -- be sure to research the agency you are gifting.

Donate only to charities you know and trust and that have a respectable reputation.

Don't give into strong-arming tactics and don't give your personal financial information -- ever.

Ask how much of your donation goes to the cause and how much goes to overhead. If you are still suspicious, check with the Better Business Bureau's (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch or GuideStar.

Always be wary of telephone solicitors.

There are enough victims from the typhoon, we don't need people falling victims to scammers.

It's unthinkable that people would steal money from desperate survivors. Unthinkable, but it happens.

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