12 ON YOUR SIDE: Tips for donating safely

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The aftermath of disasters like the tornado in Moore, OK can bring out the best in people -stories of heroism, of help, of survival... but it can also bring out people who want to take advantage of your generosity. Urgent appeals for donations by phone, email or social media are probably not on the up and up and are likely scammers.

According to the National Weather Service, Moore residents had 36 minutes to get ready for death and destruction in Oklahoma.

The first code red warning sounded at 2:40 p.m. Monday, 16 minutes before the tornado touched down 10 miles west of the city. It reached Moore at 3:16.

"We hope this inspires people in Richmond to take steps to prepare now, whether that's downloading our Red Cross tornado app or just having a conversation with our family about what would they do if a storm did come through Richmond," said Jonathan McNamara with the American Red Cross.

Images coming out of Oklahoma break our hearts, but the American Red Cross urges us to temper our emotions and desire to give with caution.

If you'd like to donate after any disaster, here are some easy to follow guidelines.

•  Only donate to charities you know and trust. Scams spring up overnight following major disasters.

•  If you get a call soliciting money, ask if the person is a paid fundraiser and how much of your donation actually goes to the charity. End the call if you can't get straight answers.

•  Don't give out personal or financial information unless you know the charity is reputable.

•  Check out the charity with the Better Business Bureau's 'Wise Giving Alliance.'

Monetary donations are preferred, rather than clothing or food.

"By giving a donation, we're able to work with local state and federal officials who are on the ground to identify what is needed on the ground. We can purchase those resources in bulk, to make sure we're delivering exactly what those individuals need," said McNamara.

Also, beware of people promoting creative fundraisers on their own to help. If you're interested in starting one, check first with the Red Cross. They can guide you and make sure you have the necessary resources.

Click here for more information on how to help: http://bit.ly/13I0ywJ

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