By Greg Argos

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Scammers are using the coronavirus pandemic to find new ways to prey on those who simply want to help those in need. Here’s how to tell a real charity from a fake one.

Americans are known for their generosity and unfortunately, scammers know just that.

“What’s crushing is to think there are organizations and people out there that are taking advantage of that,” said Victor Stagnaro, the managing director of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

“We were actually created by Congress in 1992,” Stagnaro said.

His nonprofit serves families of firefighters killed in the line of duty. Unfortunately, that now includes 54 families nationally who have lost loved ones due to COVID-19.

“We will honor those who have gotten or succumbed to COVID as a result of their service on the front line,” Stagnaro said.

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But now, just like after 9/11, he’s seeing less than honorable charities pop up, more than willing to part the generous with their hard-earned cash.

“People that are just trying to take advantage of a particular situation seem to come out of the woodwork when there is this type of an emergency or event,” Stagnaro said.

He says to look out for random calls from so-called charitable organizations that seem to come from local numbers.

“If organizations are going to that length and doing those kinds of things to draw you in, that would be a red flag for sure,” Stagnaro said.

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He recommends anyone who donates money to help those affected by the pandemic check out the Charity Navigator website, which rates nonprofits from one to four stars.

“I’d say any organization that’s a three- or four-star rating on Charity Navigator, is a pretty legitimate organization,” Stagnaro said. “We’re just asking people to be an educated consumer.”

Stagnaro says there should never be any type of pressure to donate. If an organization is too pushy, that’s another red flag.