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Avoid scams if you want to help Japan tsunami victims

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.

6 Responses to “Avoid scams if you want to help Japan tsunami victims”

  1. Great advice. Is there a list of approved charites somehwere? I could find one on the secretary of states website

  2. Lou Boccardi says:

    Please fix the “wanna.” It’s an embarassing attempt to be conversational. Especially considering who your office’s chief spokesman is.

  3. Sylvia Nightingale says:

    I received this email and wonder if these people are aware of the law regarding soliciting donations. I have dealt with Import Foods for several years and am sure they are honest, well-meaning people, but i have a feeling they are being hoodwinked.

    from Import Foods:

    Two of our customers in Japan have offered to receive packages of food aid
    from ImportFood.com via APO and distribute these packages to local victims
    of the devastating earthquake. We believe the customers of ImportFood.com
    may want to make a donation to the good people of Japan. We’ll pack and ship
    directly to the US military base, and we are of course making a matching

    Shipments using this method reach Japan in just 1 week, and we’ll ship all
    donated food immediately.

    We have been given assurance from an engineer with the US Navy Ship Repair
    Facilities that your donation will go directly to “Japanese Town Hall in
    Yokosuka” which is coordinating aid directly to people who need it most.
    Another contact of ours is the wife of a US military officer in Japan, and
    she is coordinating relief with churches in the Tokyo area right now. She
    said any boxes we send to her will be channeled into the church relief

    To make a donation:

  4. Great tips, thank you. I wanted to donate to certain charities earlier couple of time, especially now for the people of Japan. But I am always suspicious where will the money go so although I wanted it, I never did. I really didn’t know you can check up info about charities. Thank you very much.

  5. Jim Grayson says:

    Whoever the sec of state for WA State is, he or she must be awfully good.

    Probably should be re-elected.

  6. One of the best ways to look into charities is through the Better Business Bureau.


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