Avoid scams when donating to charity

The pictures of the tornado devastation in Oklahoma may move you to want to help, but scammers are always trying to take advantage of tragedy.

The Rhode Island attorney general's office provided some guidelines for giving responsibly.

"One of the easiest things people can do is to donate money," said Amy Kempe, spokeswoman for the attorney general.

A lot of people want to donate money, but where and how matters.

"It's really unfortunate that when the rest of the country is banding together to try and help ... there are those that will prey on people at this time and take advantage of them," Kempe said.

So protect yourself. First, watch out for emails.

"Never give money through an email," Kempe said.

Legitimate charities don't solicit in such a way, through emails. Chances are an email like that will direct you to another site and then ask you for credit card and bank information.

"Once they have that, your money is gone," Kempe said.

Also, don't give out personal information to someone who you don't know who calls you.

"Pretty much everything is done by going to their website. Know the websites you are going to, making sure that they are legitimate and that way, then you can donate," Kempe said.

The United Way suggests using the website, which has resources on how you can donate your money in a responsible way.

The site tracks charities and rates them. The Red Cross and AmeriCares are already on the list, which is expected to grow. There are short-term and long-term needs. And be sure to check if your donation goes strictly to the tornado relief efforts.

"Only donate to a charitable organization if you're familiar with them, if you've done your homework and you've checked them out," Kempe said.

And in addition to money, being able to communicate is another way to help. The Red Cross has a site called Safe and Well that allows those affected to check in so that family and friends know they are OK.