Don't get scammed when donating to help tornado victims

Don't get scammed when donating to help tornado victims
Carol Kawaykla pauses while looking for items in her tornado-ravaged home Thursday, May 23, 2013, in Moore, Okla. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
You've seen the devastation in Oklahoma and you want to help. Before you respond to any charity pitch - stop, think and check them out.

Adam Levin, chairman of Identity Theft 911, warns that an appeal that tugs out your heart could be from a con artist or identity thief.

"They will approach you every-which-way they can, by e-mail, through text or telephonically, represent that they are with a charity collecting funds for the victims and then give you every reason why you should provide them with credit card information so that you can make a donation to a charity that doesn't; exist."

Armed with your credit card number, they can go on a shopping spree. Give them you're debit card number, Levin says, and the damage could be worse.

"They might be able to invade your bank account and then they might be able to get information out of the bank that would actually help them steal your identity."

Play it safe. Give to charities you know and trust; organizations that specialize in disaster relief, like the American Red Cross or World Vision. And you should contact them.

To keep your charity donations from going to scammers, use the websites Charity Navigator or the BBB Wise Giving Alliance as starting point to check out different charities and find out where your donations really go.

Charity Navigator shows you how much of your money actually gets to the charity program, versus administration and marketing. The website currently lists more than a dozen "real" charities taking donations for Oklahoma tornado relief, including the American Red Cross.

For more information

Avoid Tornado Disaster Charity Fraud

BBB Wise Giving Alliance Offers Tips on Disaster Giving