RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – When disasters like the recent earthquake in Japan happen people open their hearts and wallets. But crooks also look to cash in. Consumer groups and charity organizations warn fake charities are popping up.
Reggie Gordon is CEO with the Richmond chapter of the American Red Cross.
"Money is the best thing to give during a disaster," he said.
Money is also what crooks are after during any major disaster. Gordon says when disasters strike, phony charities start popping up.
"Hopefully we can make it difficult for someone that has mal intent to take advantage of a situation like this," said Gordon.
Gordon says one a common deception is the high pressured cold call.
"A call to send money, that is maybe more personal in nature, you know someone calls you on the phone. If it seems too spontaneous and it's an organization that you have never heard of in the past then to me, those are red flags," he said.
If you want to donate, the Red Cross has designated a safe place on its website. There are also other charities collecting money to help Japan -- the Better Business Bureau has a list of legitimate organizations. While you may be in a hurry to help, consumer experts say pause and do some homework before you sign the check.
"Take a few more minutes just to investigate the organization and make sure it's credible so your dollars can get to the people," said Gordon.
Another thing to watch out for are fraudulent emails and social media schemes that target places like Facebook. Experts say when in doubt, call the organization directly - and if it seems like a scam - it probably is.