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The devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines has left many Americans wondering how they can help. While there are a number of organizations you can give to that are providing direct aid to those most affected by the storm, it is important to do your homework before sending a check. Here are several tips that can help you avoid getting scammed and ensure that funds are going to those in need.

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1) Give to established charities

"You want to find a charity with a proven track record with dealing with these disasters," said Matthew Viola, senior program analyst at Charity Navigator, a group that monitors charitable organizations.

These organizations list established charities:

Better Business Bureau's (BBB)Wise Giving Alliance
Charity Navigator
Charity Watch
GuideStar

2) Don't donate over the phone

Viola said it's best to avoid giving over the phone because you don't know where your funds are going and third-party telemarketers may be keeping a "big chunk" of your donation.

3) Never send cash

The Federal Trade Commission warns you can't be sure your donation is going to the organization. If an organization asks you for cash or a wire transfer, that could be a sign of a scam, the FTC warns.

Another reason not to send cash: You won't have a record of your donation for taxes.

4) Beware of offers of prizes

If an organization offers the promise of a guaranteed win of a sweepstakes, it's very possible you could be dealing with a scam, the FTC advises. Legally, donation to a charitable cause is never a prerequisite to winning a sweepstakes prize, the agency adds.

5) Designate the disaster

Charities may give the option to designate your giving to a specific disaster, Viola said. That way, you can ensure your funds are going to disaster relief, rather than a general fund, he said.

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