Even before the rain and wind ceases in Texas, scam artists are already soliciting for phony appeals to give to victims.

"There should be sympathy and empathy, because what Houston and the state of Texas are going through is just tragic. And unfortunately, we live in a world where people will take advantage of tragedies," Former New Jersey Consumer Affairs Director and founder of Cyberscout Adam Levin said. "Hackers, scammers, phishers, identity thieves, —they are all waiting for moments of distraction, moments of vulnerability."

You might see a Facebook page seeming to contain links to victim relief sites. But it might well take you to a scam site, even a "clone" site that looks just like one for a real charity or relief program.

"So you need to look at the website," Levin said. What is the mission of the organization? How does it accomplish its goals? What are some of the examples of the charitable work that it has done? If you get a pitch by phone, hang up. Check to see if the charity is legitimate."

Levin said consumers who get suspicious pitches to help to Harvey victims can check the groups out.

"Go to third-party charity review sites like give.org, guidestar.org, charitynavigator.org," he said.

New Jersey Consumer Affairs Director Steve Lee said when you see suffering in Texas, your heart goes out to the victims — but look before you leap.

Lee said every single charity that solicits in New Jersey for a charitable cause, and that solicits more than $10,000 annually, must be registered with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs —  "that is the first step that you can take. You can check with us."

"Like any decision that you make involving money or any important decision, take a moment just to think through that decision," he said.

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5.

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