I see posts on social media and TV news reports of community people quickly responding to help Hurricane Harvey survivors. Mississippians are known for kind hearts and generosity, especially during these trying times. We send truckloads of water, food, personal care items, cleaning supplies, etc. I see many requests for cash. But we must be mindful of those who will try to take advantage during times of crisis and disasters.

Be on alert for phony requests for post-disaster donations and identity theft. Often, unscrupulous solicitors may play on the emotions of disaster survivors, residents and business owners. Be aware that disaster aid solicitations may arrive by phone, email, letter or face-to-face visits. To ensure a charity is legitimate:

• Ask for the requestorís name as well as the charityís exact name, street address, phone number and website address – then call the charity directly to confirm the person asking for funds is an employee or volunteer.

• Whether making a donation by check or with a credit card, request a receipt including the charityís name, street address and phone number.

• With text messages, the five-to-six digit numbers known as a short code makes it difficult to tell who is on the receiving end. A legitimate charity will not ask for personal information or a credit card number by text.

Be alert and watch out for email phishing scams. Beware of visits, calls or e-mails from people claiming to be from FEMA, the state or a volunteer group. They will ask for an applicantís Social Security number, bank account number or other sensitive information because their real goal is to steal personal identity and money.

Please do not donate unsolicited goods such as used clothing, miscellaneous household items, medicine, or perishable foodstuffs. When used personal items are donated, the helping agencies must redirect their staff away from the providing direct services to survivors in order to sort, package, transport, warehouse, and distribute items that may not meet the needs of disaster survivors.

Donate through a trusted organization. At the national level, many voluntary-, faith- and community-based organizations are active in disasters, and are trusted ways to donate to disasters. You can learn more about how to help on the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) website at https://www.nvoad.org/. The Texas Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (Texas VOAD) has a list of vetted disaster relief organizations at https://txvoad.communityos.org/cms/node/104.

Just as Hurricane Katrina devastated Mississippi and Louisiana for many years, Hurricane Harveyís destruction is also extremely massive. If you do not make an immediate donation, you will have time to do so in the coming months. Just take precautions when making your donation to avoid fraud.