Scammers using deadly Maui wildfires to target people

As disaster relief efforts are underway in Maui, scammers are using the deadly wildfires to target people trying to help.

If you want to help those devastated by the fires, you need to be smart with your money.

Tom Stephens with the Better Business Bureau of Northeast Florida said cash donations are best when donating to victims in Hawaii.

“Be sure to give money to established organizations. Organizations that have boots on the ground right now. You don’t want to give money to someone who’s planning to do something three months from now,” Stephens said. “You don’t wanna give money to someone who’s says, ‘Oh I’m gonna set up a fund to help these people, give me your money.’”

Trustworthy organizations proving disaster relief in Hawaii right now are the Maui Strong Fund, the American Red Cross of Hawaii, Aloha United Way, the Maui Food Bank, and the Maui Humane Society.

Stephens says checks or donating with a credit card is the best practice.

“Especially online you have to be careful. Instead of American Red Cross of Hawaii, a website might say Hawaii American Red Cross and it could be an entirely different site set up by a scammer.”

If you want to donate through a crowdsourcing website like GoFundMe, make sure you know the organizer personally. Be weary of anyone rushing you to make a donation, asking you to donate with cash, gift card or on Cash App or Venmo. Stephen says to look for specifics about how your donation will be used.

“If you’re gonna give money, give it to somebody you know is gonna use it properly,” Stephens said.

Donations to the Red Cross are providing shelter, food and emotional support to victims of the Maui fires. You can donate by calling 1-800-HELP-NOW or at

The Honolulu Civil Beat also recommends donating to these reputable charities in Hawaii:

Hawaii Community Foundation Maui Strong fund: Focusing on rapid response and working with local nonprofits to understand community needs. More details.Maui Food Bank: Collecting and distributing food to help the hungry in Maui County. More details.Maui United Way: Providing direct relief to families and nonprofits. More details.The Salvation Army Hawaiian and Pacific Islands Division: Providing food and resources for evacuees. More details.Public Schools of Hawaii Foundation: Partnering with the state Department of Education to support school communities in West Maui through Oct. 1. More details.Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement: Working to match every donation to Maui fire victims as of Friday evening. More details.Catholic Charities Hawaii: Actively working with other organizations to assess the critical needs of individuals affected by the wildfires.Maui Humane Society: Supporting shelters for displaced people and animals, and caring for injured animals. More details.Hawaii Chamber of Commerce Hawaii Business Relief Fund: Assisting the business communities on Maui.World Central Kitchen: Providing meals to people in need by partnering with local organizations. More details.Hawaii Lions Foundation: Matching up to $25,000 in donations for Maui disaster relief efforts. More details.

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