The devastating wildfires on the Hawaiian island of Maui this week have upended communities and forced thousands of residents to evacuate.
Volunteers and aid groups have mobilized to help feed and shelter those who have been affected.
Here is some guidance for those who wish to help.
First, do your research.
When natural disasters arise, so do the opportunities for fraudsters who prey on people in need and exploit the generous impulses of others. Officials with the Federal Communications Commission have said that scammers may use phone calls, text messages, emails, post mail, and even go door to door. The Federal Trade Commission has tips on how to spot a fraudulent charity or fund-raiser.
“We are already seeing various fund-raising efforts being promoted on social media platforms and online,” Hawaii’s attorney general, Anne Lopez, said in a news release on Tuesday. “In moments of crisis, we all must be extra vigilant against bad actors who try to take advantage of people’s good will.”
State officials recommend that donations should be made to well-known organizations, stressing the importance of verifying that your chosen charity is legitimate. Officials in Hawaii have said that any charity that solicits donations in the state must be registered with the Department of the Attorney General. The status of a charity can be verified here on Hawaii’s official website.
How you can help.
The Hawaii Community Foundation is asking for monetary donations. This fund is used to support communities affected by the wildfires.
Maui United Way is also asking for money. The organization promises to provide immediate financial assistance through grants to nonprofits at the forefront of relief efforts and to households that have been affected.
The American Red Cross is also providing disaster relief for those forced to flee their homes.
Most of the rescue and relief efforts are aimed at helping humans but animals are also often in need during natural disasters.
The Maui Humane Society said in a statement on Tuesday that its shelters were already over capacity before the fires. The organization said it was seeking volunteers to foster dogs and was also looking for donations of pet food, pop-up kennels and litter. In the statement posted on Facebook, the group said that donations of supplies could be dropped off directly at the Maui Humane Society location on the island, or delivered through its Amazon wishlist.