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By now everybody has surely heard of the massive devastation in Haiti as a result of Tuesday's earthquake.  The scenes there are horrific, and I'm sure one of the first questions that many are asking are how they can help.

Charities and organizations will surely be jumping in to provide relief, medicine, food, shelter, and whatever else that they can to the people who are suffering as a result of this disaster.  These charities and organizations will need help in the form of donations.

Unfortunately, there will most likely be scams that pop up as well.  Get-rich-quick folks will set up shop collecting money that they claim will go toward the relief efforts, but unfortunately will just go into someone's pocket.

Try to avoid these.

My suggestion is to use the website Charity Navigator.  This is a website that rates charities based on standard critieria.  You can see how charities perform in terms of actually giving back the money that they receive in donations to people in need.  This has been rated a valuable tool by multiple reputable organizations, and helps weed out charities that actually help from those that help only after those involved get their pockets lined.

A couple of quick tips before donating.

1) Try to pick three or four star charities.  These are the most highly rated, meaning that your dollars will end up where they say, and not covering advertising costs, paying high salaries, or other costs not associated with providing reliefs.

2) Follow the link from their website to the charity website.  Many scammers will set up a website that looks exactly like the actual website, and even create URLs that are close to where many people will not notice the difference.  Make sure you end up on the actual page of the charity.

3) Give generously.  Things are still being discovered, but from the pictures, reports, and first-hand accounts, it sounds like this could be one of the largest tragedies on the planet in decades.

My thoughts and prayers go out to those suffering due to this awful tragedy.