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Pop-up charities prey on public's will to donate after disaster

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Updated: 5/21/2013 7:40 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As thousands in Oklahoma work desperately to recover from Monday’s deadly tornado, a local man is making sure you don’t get ripped off when donating to relief efforts.

In his high-tech hideaway in Jacksonville, Dr. Johannes Ullrich scours the Internet, searching for scams. Ullrich helps expose pop-up charities that prey on the public's will to donate.

The cybersecurity expert is the Dean of Research for SANS Technology Institute, based in Maryland.

Action News checked his database for new domain names registered with the words “Oklahoma” and “Moore.” We found the list expanded six times, not even 24 hours since the twister ripped through central Oklahoma.

“About two or three of them, we think are questionable,” said Ullrich. “We are still trying to figure out who exactly set them up. Sometimes it's hard to find out who's behind them."

The Better Business Bureau is also on the hunt to help protect your pocketbook. Many legitimate charities will carry a BBB accredited charity seal.

“It's just a guarantee ripe for the picking environment,” said BBB of Northeast Florida president Tom Stephens.

The BBB warns people who donate should never give money over the phone, avoid donating cash, and always check the charity's website.

"So if they tell you they've been in business for 10 years, but the website was activated last Thursday then you probably got an issue with that. It's probably a scam,” said Stephens.

Whether your disaster relief is sent by check or charge, Ullrich says keep this in mind. “To not have emotions overcome you but stay somewhat rational in how you donate and who you donate to."

Above all, Ullrich and the BBB warn people to do their homework before donating.

The IRS keeps a list of legitimate charities for disaster relief.
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