Natural disasters can bring out the best and the worst in people. Iowans are being warned to be very careful if they’re going to donate money to help with Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.

Bill Brauch, chief of the Consumer Protection Division at the Iowa Attorney General’s office, has some advice for those who are considering donations. “Give your money to a known charity like the Red Cross,” Brauch says. “Check out any charity that contacts you out of the blue by phone or by mail or email and don’t agree on-the-spot to make a donation when someone solicits you.”

Brauch says scam artists can be very convincing, so there’s often a number of well-intentioned people who become fraud victims after a disaster like this. “Please, file a complaint with the Iowa Attorney General’s office, we can help,” he says.

The state’s consumer protection laws cover this as well as car sales or any other sales or advertising of merchandise, he says. If you feel you’ve been scammed, call 888-777-4590 or send email to: [email protected]. Jim Hegarty, of the Better Business Bureau office in Omaha/Council Bluffs, says electronic scams multiply quickly after this sort of wide-reaching disaster.

“Emails, phony websites have all of the sudden begun to appear to ask for donations to help hurricane victims,” Hegarty says. People in the Midwest are very generous and want to help, but he says “we just want people to be really careful in how they give.” Hegarty says the BBB recommends going directly to an organization to make a donation. For a list reputable charities, visit: