by Brian Zylstra | March 11th, 2011
With last night’s news that a 23-foot tsunami caused by Japan’s largest recorded earthquake struck the east coast of Japan, many people will want to help victims and their families by making a donation.
But don’t take out your checkbook or credit card to donate to the tsunami relief effort without first doing some research on who will receive your money, the Charities Division of the Office of Secretary of State cautioned Friday.
While many of the groups responding to the crisis in Japan are long-standing, reputable charities, some may be bogus groups looking to cash in on people’s generosity. Going back to Hurricane Katrina and the 9/11 terrorist attacks, there have been many cases of charity scams in which con artists exploit people’s good intentions by taking money meant for victims.
“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,” said Secretary of State Sam Reed. “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.”
The Charities Division has not heard of specific local groups using the Japan disaster to run charity scams, but it warns the public to ask questions and be diligent about checking out charitable solicitors who say they are raising money for the tsunami relief effort.
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 an actual charitable cause. You can make sure the charity group is registered with the Office of Secretary of State by checking online. Before you write a check or charge your credit card to any charity, make sure you ask these questions:
• Is the charity or fundraiser registered with the state of Washington?
• 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?
For more giving tips, visit the Secretary of State’s Charities Web site. You can also check on whether a charity or commercial fundraiser is registered by calling the Secretary of State’s toll-free Charities Information Hotline at 1-800-332-GIVE.