Beware of Quake/Tsunami Charity Scams

03/12/2011 09:24 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

After a major disaster like the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, millions of people go online to find out how they can help. But, sadly, scam artists also go online to try to take advantage of the tragedy to divert much needed contributions into their own coffers.

"Unfortunately," said Norman Wright, of the Northwest Florida Better Business Bureau, "we've seen time and time again that scammers will try to take advantage of the generosity of the public after a disaster." Wright urges people to "take your time and do your research before donating to relief efforts."

Look Up the Charity

The BBB is one of many organizations that operates a charity research tool. Other sources of information about charities include Charity Navigator and GuideStar. The Huffington Post has information and website links for several reputable charities involved in quake relief.

Don't Click on Email Links

Avoid clicking on any links in solicitations for money, even if they appear to come from an organization you know and trust. In most cases, email solicitations are scams. If you want to give to that or any other organization, locate their actual web address and type that in, or look for them on a search engine. But also be careful about search engine results. Again, don't give to organizations that you don't know or haven't checked out, regardless of how legitimate they may appear to be.

Report Fraud

If you do get what appears to be a fraudulent solicitation, report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud. You can also report to the Internet Crime Complaint Center and to the BBB.