4. Don't be enticed by photos
Emails or sketchy websites may have links promising photographs or video of disaster areas. Never click on them. Malware could be the result.
5. If you do entertain requests for money, do so smartly
Don't provide credit card information to a caller, even if your Caller ID indicates it's a legitimate charity (scammers have ways to make whatever number they want appear on your screen). Say no to offers to send a courier to your home to pick up a donation.
Instead, tell the caller to mail you printed information. (If the organization doesn't already have your address, do not provide it. Why tell a strange caller where you live?) Although mailed material is no guarantee of legitimacy, organizations that won't provide it are usually scams. So once you get the paperwork, see if the contact information and mailing address match what you find with your own online search or the verification websites noted above. Or simply look up the number of the charity yourself and call it.
6. Say no to door-to-door solicitors
Front-door solicitors should leave behind printed materials that allow you to vet them before mailing a check or making an online credit card donation. Avoid giving cash to strangers claiming to be collecting for charities.
7. There's no such thing as "all the money goes to charity"
Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations assist victims. All charities have fundraising and administrative costs. Legitimate organizations typically spend up to 35 percent of donations on fundraising and administrative costs (but ideally, less than 25 percent).
Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling.