In wake of the earthquake and resulting tsunami that caused widespread devastation in Japan, the Texas Attorney General is cautioning residents to carefully evaluate relief organizations before making any charitable contributions.
By doing a little research, well-meaning potential donors can ensure their dollars actually help the recovery effort and aid victims rather than funding fraudulent scams set up to capitalize on a tragedy, the AG’s Office said in a statement issued today.
Anyone solicited for charitable contributions to relief efforts by telephone, text message, e-mail, mail, social networking sites or otherwise should consider the following:
- Ensure the relief organization is legitimate. Ask for credentials, including the soliciting entity’s exact name and telephone number, particularly if the purported relief organization is not well known.
- Call the charity directly and confirm that the solicitor is actually working for that organization.
- Watch for questionable charities using names that closely resemble the names of well-known charities.
- Find out how the donation will be used.
- Be wary of appeals that are long on emotion and short on descriptions about how charitable contributions will aid the recovery effort.
- Don’t succumb to high-pressure tactics and demands for an immediate decision. A legitimate charity welcomes background checks on their operations.
- Never give a credit card or bank account number to an unknown solicitor.
- Never give cash and never agree to give money to a courier. Write a check to the charity directly – not the soliciting individual – and get a receipt.
For information about specific relief operations currently underway, residents can contact the American Institute of Philanthropy. AIP is a national charity watchdog service that assists donors with identifying reliable charitable organizations. Bellaire residents can visit the organization’s website at www.charitywatch.org.
Anyone who believes they have been scammed by a bogus charity can file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov or call the Consumer Complaint Hotline at 800-252-8011.