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      Better Business Bureau begs citizens to donate wisely

      With many reports estimating Hurricane Sandyâ??s damage to be in the range of 20 billion dollars, many people might feel inclined to donate to the relief effort.

      With many reports estimating Hurricane Sandy TMs damage to be in the range of 20 billion dollars, many people might feel inclined to donate to the relief effort.

      The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is encouraging people to investigate the charities before they make a donation, to ensure your money is going to people who actually need it.

      We see this after every nature disaster of this magnitude, the thieves will pop out of the wood-works and the worst thing that can happen is that your donated dollar goes to someone that's stealing from those who need it, the BBB, CEO Leonard Crain.

      The BBB offers these tips when deciding where to donate:

      1. Be wary of claims that 100% of donations will assist relief victims.If a charity claims 100% of collected funds will be assisting hurricane victims, the truth is that the organization is probably still incurring fund raising and administrative expenses.

      2. Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the Sandy-affected area. See if the charity's website clearly describes what the charity can do to address immediate needs. Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to bring in new aid workers to provide assistance quickly.

      3. Avoid the "middleman" charity.Some charities may be raising money to pass along to relief organizations. If so, you may want to consider "avoiding the middleman" and giving directly to those that have a presence in the region.

      4. Question gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations.The organization needs the staff and infrastructure to distribute such aid properly. Ask the charity about its transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance.

      5. Be cautious when giving online.Avoid emails and social media posts that claim to link to a relief organization. If you want to donate, go directly to the charity's website. Research charities and relief organizations at