Several humanitarian organizations are seeking donations to help fund relief efforts in Haiti, following a devastating earthquake this week. As is often the case in the wake of disasters though, Ran Hoth with the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau says criminals looking to take advantage of the situation will be looking for your money as well.

Hoth says those who wish to donate to relief efforts should take the time to investigate a charity before handing over their money. The U.S. State Department and the BBB both maintain lists of reputable charities.

Social networking sites have seen a flurry of activity on ways to donate by sending a text message on your cell phone. Hoth says it’s a great way to give quickly, but it’s also easy to abuse. He says you should try to verify the number before sending a text, rather than just blindly going with what’s posted on somebody’s blog.

Legitimate charities are not all created equal either. Hoth says you should feel free to ask questions about how your money will be spent and how much of it will actually go to relief efforts.

Some groups looking for donations may actually be acting as a middle man for your money. They take a cut to cover their costs, then pass it on to the actual charity that’s on the ground providing relief in Haiti. If that’s the case, Hoth suggests going straight to the main charity instead, to make sure your money is being use as effectively as possible.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:16)


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