03/09/2012 01:09 pm ET Updated Mar 09, 2012

Tornado Relief Fraud: How To Avoid Charity Scam Organizations (SLIDESHOW)

As heartbreaking stories of tornado victims who have lost it all continue to emerge, do-gooders have been inspired to donate their time and money to help. But as the number of philanthropists coming forward increases, so too is the number of scammers looking to make a buck, the U.S. Department of Justice reports.

The National Center for Disaster Fraud, established in 2005 to deter and prosecute Hurricane Katrina fraud relief, is amping up its security measures in the wake of the twisters hitting the Midwest and the South.

"Many individuals feel compelled to contribute to victim assistance programs and organizations across the country," the Department of Justice said in a release. "The Department of Justice and the FBI remind the public to apply a critical eye and do its due diligence before giving to anyone soliciting donations on behalf of tornado victims."

To help point donors in the direction of legitimate charities that are actually helping those in need, the DOJ has issued a list of guidelines to consider.

Read through our slideshow of the top five tips to consider before contributing money to a charity claiming to help tornado victims.

If you come across a fraudulent relief organization, or believe you have been a victim of fraud, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud by phone at 866.720.5721 or via email at

For a list of relief organizations taking action in the affected regions, click here.