Oil spill scamsThe U.S. Federal Trade Commission is warning consumers and businesses to be on the lookout for scams taking advantage of the Gulf oil spill.

The FTC warns that thieves trying to take advantage of the disaster will use e-mail, websites, fliers, mailing, telephone calls and even door-to-door collections to make a buck. Others also may pose as insurance adjusters who can expedite a claim for a fee. Don't fall for it.

Donors who wish to contribute to clean-up efforts should verify that it's a real charity before making a contribution on a website, the FTC says. Donate to an already familiar nonprofit group to avoid a fraud.

The Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance also tells donors to watch out for well-intentioned, but inexperienced charities. A disaster usually creates a crop of new nonprofits and relief groups to help in its aftermath. The BBB says that while these groups may have good intentions, they often lack resources and experience to be effective.

Since the Gulf spill involves oil, experience in handling hazardous materials is needed before pitching in a helping hand, says the BBB. Charities will ask you to register for volunteer programs and assess your skills beforehand and would be able to place you in the appropriate volunteer opening.

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