PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The terrifying pictures of the disaster in Japan have many Americans wanting to help. Unfortunately, con-artists are counting on that. 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter has advice if you want to donate to the relief effort and offers a warning about what to watch out for.

It’s in our nature to want to help in a time of crisis. But no matter how you give, by text message, by phone, or by going online, beware that scam artists are lurking. Within hours of these devastating images being broadcast around the world, relief efforts went into high gear. Charitable groups around the globe began collecting money to help support the people of Japan. But not every fundraising effort is legitimate. Megan Miller of the Better Business Bureau says, “A lot of fly by night websites being created overnight, spam emails going out, and with the texting being so popular, we want people to be aware of that there are definitely scams out there.”

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Often the scams are spread using social media or a fake charity tries to make you believe they’re a legitimate one. It’s happened before to the Red Cross. Miller says, “This is one of the most common things in charity fraud, they use the names of reputable organizations to gain people’s trust.” The B.B.B. also warns of charitable organizations that contact you. Miller says, “Anything that’s unsolicited, any unsolicited email, text, phone call, even door to door might happen.”

So to be safe, make donations directly through a legitimate charity’s website and not through any posted links. Also use a credit card, you never want to wire money or give a cash donation. Disaster relief efforts are sure to pick up momentum in the coming days and weeks. If you’re interested in helping the victims of the earthquake and tsunami I’ve posted information to assist you below:

AMERICAN RED CROSS — U.S. mobile phone users can text ‘REDCROSS’ to 90999 to add $10 automatically to your phone bill. Or visit or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.

INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL CORPS — Sending relief teams and supplies to the area. Call 1-800-481-4462, or visit

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SAVE THE CHILDREN — The relief effort providing food, medical care and education to children is accepting donations through mobile phones by texting ‘JAPAN’ to 20222 to donate $10. People can also call 1-800-728-3843 during business hours or visit to donate online.

GLOBAL GIVING — The non-profit which works through grassroots efforts says Americans can text ‘JAPAN’ to 50555 to give $10 through their phone bill. Or visit

INTERACTION — The group is the largest alliance of U.S.-based international nongovernmental organizations and lists many ways to help on its site,

NETWORK FOR GOOD — The aggregator of charities has a list of programs and ways to donate to relief efforts. Visit

WORLD VISION — The Christian humanitarian organization focuses on children, aiming to lessen the emotional and psychological damage that many children suffer during crises. To donate, visit

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Reported by Jim Donovan, CBS 3