Natural disasters have a tendency to bring people together to help those in trouble.
But unfortunately, disasters also bring out people who want to take advantage of the situation for their own gain.
So after Hurricane Katrina, the Department of Justice decided to set up the National Center for Disaster Fraud to investigate reported scams.
Before you make any donations to a natural disaster relief fund, here are some things experts say you should look out for:
Always be cautious of emails, especially if they contain links or attachments — a common way of passing on a virus.
Make sure you recognize the organization you're donating to. Scammers like to use names similar to major charities. For example, you might get an email from redcross.net instead of the real redcross.org.
Always make sure you're donating directly to a charity: going through a third-party is a good way to lose your money.
And if you're the victim of a disaster, make sure you look into any businesses offering repairs. Fake contractors can pop up after a disaster, take your money and run.
United Way suggests checking with the Better Business Bureau if you're suspicious of any business or its practices.
If you're concerned about the charity you want to give to, the Better Business Bureau has you covered. Its Wise Giving Alliance lets you search for charities to make sure they're legit.
If you think you might be a victim of disaster fraud, you can contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud anytime at 866-720-5721.