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Kip Tips

Beware of Typhoon Disaster-Relief Scams

Take these steps to make sure your donations to help victims in the Philippines go to reputable organizations.

If you're considering donating to relief efforts for victims of the Philippines typhoon disaster, watch out for con artists trying to prey on your generosity. The Federal Trade Commission and Better Business Bureau are warning consumers to beware of scams related to Typhoon Haiyan and to make sure their donations are going to reputable organizations.

SEE ALSO: How to Avoid Obamacare Scams

Here are tips to help you recognize scams and to make sure your money goes toward legitimate causes:

-- Give to an established charity. The FTC warns against giving to charities that have sprung up just to deal with the recent typhoon. Instead, look for charities with a track record of dealing with this sort of disaster or working in the Philippines. You can find a list of charities providing relief in the Philippines and links to their sites on CharityNavigator.org.

-- Don't click on links to charities in texts or e-mails because they may take you to fraudulent sites or download malware onto your computer. Although legitimate charities can receive donations by text message, they usually do not send out unsolicited requests by text message or e-mail, according to Scambook, a complaint resolution site.

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-- Beware bogus charity sites. Criminals often set up Web sites using legitimate charities' names in an attempt to steal money or personal information from donors, according to Charity Navigator. You can find links to charities' authorized sites on CharityNavigator.org.

-- Watch out for social media appeals. Don't assume charity recommendations on Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites have been vetted, the BBB warns. Do your own research before giving to make sure a charity is legitimate and will use funds wisely. About 40 of the 50 states require charities to register with a state government agency -- usually the state attorney general's office. Or you can check out a charity at BBB.org.

-- Be wary of appeals that are long on emotion and vague on details because a legitimate charity will tell you how funds will be used to address the tragedies.

-- Don't give cash. The FTC recommends that you pay by check (made out to the charity, not the person raising funds) or by credit card for security and tax-record purposes.

-- Ask for a receipt showing the amount of your donation and stating that it is tax-deductible.