Hurricane Ian: How to spot real, fake donation requests

GoFundMe: ‘$9 million raised for Hurricane Ian relief’

Many people in Central Florida had their lives upended due to the arrival of Hurricane Ian last week, though sites like GoFundMe and the Florida Disaster Fund have helped to bring in donations to help hurricane victims.

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – “We have lived in Florida our whole lives. We have dealt with plenty of hurricanes and this was definitely the worst we have ever gotten it, the worst we have ever seen,” said Kissimmee resident Sam Pippen. “The water was up to my waist.”

Flood waters destroyed Sam and his dad Eric’s family vehicles, along with everything else that could not fit onto a table top.

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“I thought it was fake,” Sam told News 6. “I really thought I was having like a fever dream or something. You know, it just got to the point where our mattresses started to float. They were soaked.”

Left with nothing, Sam joined hundreds of other Hurricane Ian victims seeking assistance on GoFundMe. So far Sam and his dad have raised roughly $6,000.

On Monday, GoFundMe told News 6 the site has collectively raised approximately $9 million dollars for Hurricane Ian victims through verified and trusted fundraising pages vetted by the company itself.

But GoFundMe isn’t the only site for donations. According to Florida’s First Lady Casey DeSantis, Florida’s Disaster Fund raised $20 million for hurricane aide in 48 hours.

“I want to say thank you to Tom Brady, who put on his website a special shout out to our fund,” DeSantis said during a press conference last week. “That got a lot of attention and raised a lot of money.”

If you do not have cash to donate, the state-run disaster fund website also serves as a resource for volunteer opportunities.

Back in Kissimmee, Sam and his dad Nick, were finally rescued by an airboat and brought to dry ground.

They are currently hoping to raise $30,000. So far, they have about 20 percent raised.

They hope to use the money for down payments on new vehicles, plus replacing household items like mattresses, beds and a TV.

How do you know if a request is real or fake? We vetted these requests and sites prior to talking about them in our newscast. and it is something you can do too.

According to the Federal Communications Commission:

  1. Use multiple sites and sources to vet an individual or organization requesting money.
  2. When in doubt, give to well-known, trusted charities.
  3. If you do not want to waste your money, consider donating your time to an organization. You might not know right away if your dollar is being wasted, but you will know right away if you’re time is being ill spent.

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About the Author:

Award-winning investigative reporter Merris Badcock joined the News 6 team in October 2020. Merris is the recipient of a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award, a Suncoast Regional Emmy Award, four Suncoast Emmy Regional nominations, and two first-place Florida Association of Broadcast Journalists’ Awards.