After the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan you may be eager to donate to the relief effort, but make sure you’re giving to a legitimate organization. Scammers can setup fake charities by snatching up Web addresses that sound official and related to the disaster.
Give to a well-known, top-rated organization. As we reported Friday, the American Red Cross is taking online donations. You can also donate $10 to the relief effort by texting redcross to 90999 from any cell phone, but note that your carrier may charge you. For more information, see the American Red Cross FAQ.
The White House’s website is directing potential donors to USAID, which in turn links to a list of U.S.-based international charities donating to the relief effort posted at InterAction. For more information about the relief response you may also want to check out the Center for International Disaster Information, which operates under the USAID’s office of Foreign Disaster Assistance.
Beware of unsolicited emails and calls, which may come from scammers trying to sound like a well-known charity. Also know that legitimate groups sometimes hire direct mail or telephone telemarketers who take a substantial portion of the donation. It’s always best to bypass any middlemen and give directly to an organization that you know can help.
Other considerations when giving:
- Some legitimate charities may not have a presence in Japan, so make sure that you give to a charity that is able to provide assistance.
- Monetary contributions are best because food and other goods may be difficult to collect and transport, particularly in an area that was hit hard by the tsunami.
- When giving money remember that some organizations merely collect money on behalf of other charities, and some spend little on their charitable programs when compared to fund-raising or administrative costs.
Check out the Better Business Bureau's tips about how and where to give to the relief effort in Japan. You can find similar information and guide to giving at the watchdog website Charity Navigator.