“New Yorkers have shown time and time again that they are kind and generous people who rise to the occasion and offer their support to victims of major tragedies like the Boston Marathon bombings,” Schneiderman said. “I am committed to protecting New Yorkers from scammers who might look to take advantage of a tragedy to bilk people out of their charitable contributions.”

The media can play a critical role in uncovering fraudulent charity activity — a CNN investigation in January exposed Alba’s alleged involvement in the Sandy Hook scheme — but Miniutti says enforcement and prosecution from the government is lacking.

“There is not a whole lot of oversight of the non-profit sector in general, so even charities that are up to no good rarely get investigated and prosecuted,” she said. “The states and the IRS don’t have the manpower to go after all these cases unless they are sure it’s going to be a win.”

If a donor suspects his or her contribution has gone to a fraudulent charity, Miniutti advises contacting the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

 “The FTC is probably the best bet, but if it is a legitimate charity, and they are aware of criminal activity, then the IRS at the federal level and the Attorney General at the state level (should be contacted),” she said.

Charity Navigator lists these tips to follow before deciding to make a donation. Ultimately, to avoid getting caught in a scammer’s web, there is no substitute for doing your homework and carefully evaluating charities before giving.