"It's very distressing to hear about those kinds of situations," said Kelly Hurd, development and marketing director with the Red Cross of Alaska.
"During times of disaster it's important to know who you are giving to and where those donations go to," said Hurd.
Hurd is warning Alaskans not to give to strangers over the phone or Internet.
"We are grateful for folks that do support the different relief efforts, but we have some words of caution and advice for folks to make sure that their donation goes exactly where they want it to go," Hurd said.
She says that even if those collecting aren't out-and-out thieves, they need to be held accountable for every penny that is collected.
"We have a donor direct policy that ensures that 100 percent of donors' funds will be spent exactly how they want those funds to be spent," she says.
Hurd uses the case of Sept. 11 as an example. Seventy new nonprofits sprung up nearly overnight. All were gone and unaccounted for within months.
"What that does is just discourages people from giving," said Ma'o Tosi, a local activist who is spearheading fundraisers for Samoans back home.
"One year someone gives $100 but they gave it to the wrong person, so the next year they're saying, ‘No way, I'm not giving nothing. I don't know where my money is going,'" Tosi said.
That's why Tosi is making it clear that even though he organizes the fundraisers, he donates it directly to a longtime proven organization.
"It's easier for me to put my energy toward the most credible and most honest, and that's where Red Cross is just that," Tosi said.
"I think it's really important to stick with an organization that you know, that you trust, and you know how they are going to spend their money," said Hurd.
"It breaks my heart to hear that there are scammers out there trying to take advantage of the situation," Tosi said.
"But that's where good people should overcome that, because there are more good people than there are bad," he said.
If donors give more wisely, more aid will make its way to those who really need it.
"I feel good knowing that there are more out there that want to help than want to deceive," said Tosi.
More fundraisers are planned for the coming weeks. Tosi has a basketball fundraiser planned, complete with an entertaining halftime show set up for 7 p.m. Oct. 30 at West High School. The plans are still under development.
Contact Maria Downey at email@example.com