When natural disasters strike our neighboring countries, it’s of no surprise that we rally together to do what we can to assist them with rebuilding. From hurricanes and tsunamis to volcanic eruptions and tornadoes, opening our hearts to those in need comes naturally for most of humanity. Over the years, we have witnessed millions turn to the Internet to find ways to help and enable others to give in times of misfortune. The internet was created to be a collaborative tool, open to all, for the benefit of people throughout the world. Unfortunately, with the rise in “fake news”, some attempt to take advantage of this spirit of giving by creating online scams disguised as relief operations.

If you’re interested in helping others during a catastrophe, here are some ways to ensure that your assistance is reaching those that need it:

Confirm the organisation’s validity

Review the credentials of an organisation before offering your assistance. Websites like charitynavigator.orggive.org and guidestar.org evaluate U.S. based charities and provide information on their practices which may help you make a decision about where to give. There are also equivalent resources that help confirm other countries’ local organisations, such as guidestarindia.org and backabuddy.co.za.

Investigate the usage of the donation

Support can be provided in many different forms, from rescue efforts to medical needs and food and supplies. Before donating, consider the situation and what support may be the most helpful. Some organisations allow you to designate your contribution to a specific fund or effort. If you’re able, consider telling the charity exactly how you would like your contribution to be used.

Ensure the website is secure

Before you click the “donate” button, make sure the transaction is secure. Online transactions are at risk of being intercepted by hackers and identity thieves without a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) Certificate. One way to tell if a website is secure is by looking at the URL. If there is a secure connection, the URL should begin with “https,” meaning that sensitive information, like credit card numbers, will be encrypted before being sent over the network.

Be wary of stories and appeals communicated via exclusively through social media

Many people turn to social media platforms – like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube – to share news and get information about disasters and relief efforts, but as the content is typically not validated, be cautious of your resources. Faux images and stories have been known to go viral. At times, these posts simply misinform readers, but sometimes they’re posted with requests for contributions going to an unknown source. Investigate before clicking the donation link – verify the story and the supporting organisation. This information also applies to crowdfunding and fundraising sites.

We, at Public Interest Registry, understand the importance of having an online platform to advocate and promote a cause, and to turn to for information. That’s why we are committed to helping maintain the integrity of the internet by providing a trusted place online for organisations and individuals to mobilize their audiences for the common good.