Natural disasters like the superstorm known as Sandy can bring out the best in people, especially during times of need, but it can also bring out the worst.

The American Red Cross is a legitimate organization that has devoted resources to helping those affected by Hurricane Sandy. (American Red Cross)

The Christie Administration sent a warning to New Jersey residents Thursday - beware of charity scams, which have been known to pop up in the past to prey upon the generosity of those wishing to help during times of disaster.

Before donating to a charity, one should find out whether it is registered to solicit funds in New Jersey. Some charities, however, are exempt from registration, like certain religious and educational organizations.

"Find out, specifically, how the charity is going to use the money that you're giving them," added New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa. "The charity should readily provide this information to you."

Chiesa said the easiest way to determine whether a charity is legit or bogus is by calling the state Division of Consumer Affairs. The Division's Charities Registration Hotline can be reached at 973-504-6215. Help is also available through the general line, 1-800-242-5486.

"We'll be able to tell (residents) if the charity is a legitimate one," he said.

The toll-free line can also be used by anyone who believes they have been cheated or scammed by a proposed charity. Chiesa said anyone who purposely preys on others in a time like this will be prosecuted for fraud, "no question about it."


Know Your Charity Never give to a charity you know nothing about. Ask for literature and read it. Ask questions. Honest charities encourage you to do so.

Don't Be Fooled by a Convincing Name A dishonest charity will often have an impressive name or one that closely resembles the name of a respected, legitimate concern.

Demand Identification Always ask to see identification for both the solicitor and the charity. Be suspicious of anyone who can't respond satisfactorily.

Beware of Telephone Solicitations Refuse to commit yourself on the first call. If the charity sounds worthwhile, ask to be sent written information.

Don't Fall for the Tearjerker Don't give simply because of a pathetic “sob story.” The hard luck tale is a favorite of fraudulent operators.