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SCAM ALERT: Beware of charity fraud in Oklahoma tornado wake

By By Caleb James, Reporter
Published On: May 22 2013 09:38:42 PM CDT
Updated On: May 22 2013 10:25:59 PM CDT

Caleb James reports.

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho -

Disasters like the Moore, Okla. tornado can give scammers an opportunity to get away with money intended for victims.

The natural instinct is to help, but it's important to help wisely.  

Vetting a charitable organization before making a donation insures your contribution makes it into the right hand. With the Internet, it's easier than ever to make sure something is legitimate.

"Anymore, if you go on the Internet you'll get all the information you need, truthfully," said Karen Cornwell.

Cornwell is the executive director of the Bonneville County United Way. In that executive position, Cornwell is responsible for strictly vetting dozens of charities, and says the Internet is still the best bet.

Of course, you need to know where to go to do your research.

Even though the Internet is the primary source of charitable fraud, it can also be the best tool in avoiding it.

Websites like CharityNavigator.org root out the good charities from the bad charities.
 
The Federal Trade Commission offers consumer information and tips under a section called, "Before Giving to a Charity."

Tried and true organizations like the American Red Cross usually have their own iPhone apps for donating. The apps, and direct-donation websites give contributors even more piece-of-mind by seeing first-hand where the donation will go.
 
"You need to know where your money is going," said Cornwell.

Cornwell's advice is very much in line with some of the FTC's tips for avoiding fraud:

-- DO go to charitable websites yourself.
-- DO NOT click on links or respond to e-mail solicitations.

-- DO use third-party watchdog groups like CharityNavigator.org, or CharityWatch.org

Right now, CharityNavigator has a special tornado relief section on its homepage that organizes the charities most directly aiding victims in Oklahoma.

The FTC also lists red flags for charity fraud:

-- The charity won't provide proof the donations are tax deductible.
-- The charity pressures you to donate now, or asks for cash donations.

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