Iowans are being warned about scam artists who are looking to cash in on the earthquake and tsunami relief efforts in Japan.

Iowa Attorney General’s office spokesperson Geoff Greenwood says email phishing scams and unsolicited phone calls are an unfortunate likelihood after such a massive tragedy. “Our experience from situations like Hurricane Katrina and the situation in Haiti, tells us it’s just a matter of time before people start calling Iowans to scam them out of their generous donations,” Greenwood said.

Greenwood suggests giving to established disaster relief organizations like the American Red Cross or at least take some time to check out the charity group before you donate. “If you’re dealing with someone who calls you or emails you and you’ve never heard of them before, I’d be very careful before giving them a dollar,” Greenwood said. If you receive an unsolicited email, Greenwood says it’s best to simply hit delete.

You can easily check on the legitimacy of a charity online. Greenwood suggests or the Better Business Bureau:

More tips from the Iowa Attorney General’s office:

* If you donate through a website, ensure that the transaction is secure. When you are entering your credit card information, you should see an “https:” in the web address prefix (the “s” means it is secure).

* While most charities seek money, don’t pay in cash. Pay by check or credit card on a secure website, which will help you keep records for security and tax purposes.