The Justice Department Wednesday warned of the "potential for disaster fraud" and urged anyone who "suspects fraudulent activity pertaining to relief efforts associated with Typhoon Haiyan" to report it.

The toll-free National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at 866-720-5721 is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, "for the purpose of reporting suspected scams" after disasters, the Justice Department said in a news release.

The Justice Department set up the National Center for Disaster Fraud in 2005 "to investigate, prosecute and deter fraud associated with federal disaster relief programs" after hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, according to the news release.

More than 20 federal agencies participate in the center.

"The Department of Justice and the FBI remind the public to apply a critical eye and conduct due diligence before giving to anyone soliciting donations on behalf of hurricane victims," the Justice Department said.

Before making a donation, federal officials urge consumers to:

-- Be cautious of those who represent themselves as victims via email or social networking sites.

-- Beware of organizations with copycat names similar to those of reputable charities.

-- Verify the legitimacy of nonprofit groups through the Internet.

-- Make donations directly to known organizations.

-- Do not make cash donations if possible.

Anyone who believes they may be a victim is urged to call the center at (866) 720-5721, fax at (225) 334-4707 or send an email to

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