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Beware of disaster relief scammers in the wake of major tragedies

By Cassandra Webb, cwebb@ktxs.com
Published On: May 22 2013 06:14:50 PM CDT
Updated On: May 23 2013 09:26:45 AM CDT
ABILENE, Texas -

After the devastation in Oklahoma, many relief organizations are seeking donations ... but so are scammers.  

According to the American Red Cross, every time there's a large scale disaster, there will be people who try to take advantage of the public's emotions.

Local nonprofits are cautioning kind-hearted folks to do their homework, especially when it comes to online giving.

"Just don't be giving to a charity or someone on the Internet has no legitimacy, can't prove any legitimacy," said Maj. James Parrish of the Abilene Salvation Army.

It's easy for scammers to create fake websites or Facebook pages – don't buy into them. 

"I would be leery of anybody who has no credentials, has no background in doing this," Parrish said.

Legitimate organizations will never beg for your money.

"The Red Cross does not solicit funds via the phone and things like that so that would obviously be an immediate red flag for people," said Allen Brooks of the American Red Cross.

The bottom line is to know where your money is going.

"It's your donation and you want to make sure it goes to help do the most for the folks who are needing the help," Parrish said.

The No. 1 tip from the Better Business Bureau is to avoid giving to people or organizations who have a real sense of urgency.

If they desperately need your money now, they're probably not to be trusted.

Here are some more tips on how to avoid being scammed:

1. Donate to familiar charities.

2. Do not respond to unsolicited calls, e-mails, or social networking posts.

3. If you donate through a website, ensure the transaction is secure.

4. Don't pay in cash.

5. Don't believe viral victims.

6. Keep a record of all past donations. A legitimate charity will be able to bring up your past giving record if you ask.

Legitimate and safe organizations to send money to are the American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, United Way and Global Samaritan Resources.