Published: May 31, 2010 9:39 PM EDT
Updated: May 31, 2010 6:35 PM EDT

Lee County, FL-- Some charities are not waiting for oil giant BP to start cleaning up parts of the gulf coast where oil has washed ashore.

Before you give your money to help their cause, do your homework.

Scam artists will use names similar to legitimate charities trying to cash in on name recognition.

To avoid padding a scam artist's pocket, check out the charity.

In Florida, you can request a copy of registration documents and a financial statement from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Their number is 1-800-HELP-FLA

You can also call the National Charities' Information Bureau to check and see if they have any registered complaints. That number is 1-212-929-6300.

You can also use websites like Charity Navigator to see how they rate charities for efficiency and financial stability. You can find a link to their website by clicking here.