Steer clear of bogus charities in earthquake aftermath

March 12, 2011

By Staff

NEW — 8 a.m. March 12, 2011

The devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan has many people in Washington eager to help victims, but would-be donors should do some research before donating.

Officials at the Charities Division of the Secretary of State’s Office urged people to use caution and to donate to reliable sources.

Though many groups responding to the disaster in Japan rank as long-standing and reputable charities, some might be bogus groups. Charity scams also sprouted in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“If you decide to donate money to the Japanese tsunami relief effort, you would want your money to go where it can do the most good to help victims and their families,” Secretary of State Sam Reed said in a statement. “So we encourage you to check before you give by doing your homework on the charities asking for your money. We don’t want scammers to benefit from this tragedy.”

Reed’s office had not heard of specific local groups using the Japan disaster to run charity scams by Friday, but officials warned people to ask questions and be diligent about checking out charitable solicitors.

Under state law, anyone who solicits charitable donations in Washington must register with the Secretary of State, and disclose how much raised money went toward a charitable cause.

Before making a donation to any charity, make sure to ask the following questions:

  • Is the charity or fundraiser registered with the state?
  • What is the name, address and telephone number of the organization asking for the donation?
  • Exactly how will the donation be used?
  • What percentage of the contribution will actually be spent on the charitable purpose of the organization?

Reed’s office offers a searchable database of registered charities. People can also check out a charity or a commercial fundraiser by calling the toll-free Charities Information Hotline at 1-800-332-GIVE.

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