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Alleged Quake Scams Popping Up Already

Less than 24 hours after Tuesday's devastating earthquake hit Haiti, the FBI received complaints of charity fraud.

"The Early Show" has learned that the bureau is considering criminal charges against one Web site soliciting donations for victims of the temblor.

And authorities expect more scam attempts in the quake's wake, as they seem to after every natural disaster. For instance, after Hurricane Katrina, thousands of sites popped up, and the FBI considered 60 percent of them phony.

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Complete Coverage: Devastation in Haiti

So, how can you be sure a donation you make goes to an organization that's on the up-and-up?

"Early Show" consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen offers some pointers Thursday.

She suggests only giving to groups you know and trust.

Be wary of charities using names that sound like other, legitimate charities. Ask lots of questions. If an organization refuses to provide you any written information about itself, its mission, and where the money goes, steer clear. Ask the charity to provide you with a copy of IRS Form 990, which tells you how the money is spent.

It's really hard to get into Haiti right now, so you might ask charities how they're going to get there? Will they bringing things directly to Haiti themselves? Do they have a base already established in Haiti?

Be particularly careful online. Don't respond to any unsolicited e-mails, including clicking links contained in them. Be suspicious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files, because the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.

NEVER give out your personal information, like your bank account or Social Security numbers -- ESPECIALLY to a charity that called you and wants your money. Never send cash. You want a paper trail. It's a good idea to send a check or use a credit card.

Use Web sites that track charities for you. The Better Business Bureau has one. You can also check Charity Navigator and Guidestar. And check with the office that regulates charities in your state. Usually, it's a division of the attorney general's office.



From Doctors Without Borders:

The first thing you should do when donating is check the financial health of the organization you want to donate to (you should be able to access their financials online).

But that is not enough; you should dig deeper because financials don't always accurately represent how emergency oriented donation will be used.

Organizations differ from each other in how they allocate money. And some organizations even allocate donations differently depending on the situation (for example, an organization might take 15 percent of your annual donation to pay for operations -- like keeping the lights on in their office, but that same organization may give 100 percent of your emergency-oriented donation to the cause that you have specified).

To find out how money is allocated you can call and ask: Every organization should have a donor service line or 800 number where these specific questions can be answered.