As Texans struggle to survive and eventually rebuild, Mainers are cautioned about not falling victim to scams that claim to be relief funds.

A Mainer's first instinct, when someone is in trouble, is to help. It's what we do. If our neighbor is battling a debilitating illness, we take them food and mow their lawn. We hold baked bean suppers and set up GoFundMe pages. But that generous spirit also makes Mainers prime patsies for crooks who will exploit it for their own gain.

All that news footage of the flooding and storm damage makes many of us feel like we want to reach out and help. We can all do that, but we have to be smart about how we go about it. Here are a few tips from the Houston Chronicle about how to safely donate to the cause.

  • Mario Tama, Getty Images
    Mario Tama, Getty Images

    American Red Cross

    Folks can donate online to the American Red Cross and help fund its efforts. The Red Cross is working to provide shelter, food, clothing, water, and other necessities to folks who have been displaced by flooding. To help them with their mission, log onto the Red Cross website and use the drop-down menu to choose the  Hurricane Harvey relief fund.

  • Francesco Ridolfi, ThinkStock
    Francesco Ridolfi, ThinkStock

    Call The Red Cross For Info

    If you want to do something more than give a financial donation, call the American Red Cross to see how you can help. The organization is looking for volunteers so, if you have the capability to do that, they can give you the details. For all the information on how you can help the American Red Cross, call 1-800-RED-CROSS. (1-800-733-2767)

  • Sigefride, ThinkStock
    Sigefride, ThinkStock

    Text The American Red Cross

    Texting donations is the wave of the future, and the American Red Cross has jumped on the bandwagon. If you'd like to make a quick, $10 donation to the American Red Cross, you can do it by texting 90999. A $10 donation will be applied to your next cellphone bill, and the money will benefit the American Red Cross.

  • Devonyu, ThinStock
    Devonyu, ThinStock

    Don't Respond To Phone Solicitation

    It's disgusting to think about, but disasters like this bring out the crooks who will run scams disguised as fundraising. So donate in the ways we've detailed here and don't fall victim by responding to scams. If someone calls, claiming to represent a fundraising campaign, DO NOT give them your financial information. Just hang up. The Red Cross and reputable relief organizations will not call your house, asking for money. It's a scam!

  • Pixland, ThinkStock
    Pixland, ThinkStock

    Check Charitable Organizations

    There are ways to check on charitable organizations, to make sure they're reputable. Use websites like Charity Watch or Wise Giving Alliance to verify that the organization you're planning to donate through is a valid non-profit. You can also do some of your own detective work. Most charitable organizations' websites end in .org, not .com. And look for slight spelling errors in the web address. Bottom line - if you want to make a donation you know will reach flood victims, donate through the American Red Cross. They will greatly appreciate your help!

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