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Press Releases

03/14/2011

Donate Carefully for Japan Disaster Relief: Avoid Charities Fraud

HARTFORD, March 14  -- In the wake of the massive earthquake and tsunami that devastated northern Japan in recent days, there is little doubt that Connecticut citizens will once again be very generous in helping those in need.  As consumers choose how to help, the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection is urging them to carefully check out charities before making a monetary donation to aid in relief efforts.

“The devastation is overwhelming and the losses, both personal and economic, move us to donate quickly and generously,” Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein said. “But because scam artists are adept at exploiting disaster for personal gain, I urge you donate carefully, so that your kindness and generosity are not exploited.” Commissioner Rubenstein offers the following suggestions:

  • Donate to well-known, established charities; it is the best way to ensure that your donation is used appropriately. Establishing an effective, efficient new charity following a crisis is nearly impossible. Find a charity with a proven track record in providing disaster relief on a massive scale, one that has worked in Japan and other affected regions. One source where you check out the details about a charity that you are considering is the website, charitynavigator.org.   
  • When giving to any organization, specify that your donation is for this crisis in Japan.

    Do not send supplies unless a charity specifically requests them. Otherwise, there may be no system to receive, organize and distribute your donation. Furthermore, charities tend to partner with companies to acquire large amounts of in-kind donations such as bottled water and new clothing.
  • Avoid responding to e-mail and telephone solicitations on behalf of supposed victims. Unless you personally know someone in Japan, anyone contacting you in this way is most likely part of a scam.
  • Delete unsolicited e-mails and don’t open attachments. Never respond to unsolicited emails and don’t open any attachments to these emails even if they claim to contain pictures from Japan. The attachments may be viruses designed to steal personal financial information from your computer.

    Beware of copycat organizations. Criminals are likely to set up bogus sites to steal the identities and donations of generous, unsuspecting individuals. When giving online, be sure to find the charity’s legitimate website. You can access links to each bona fide charity’s sites from the Charity Navigator site (charitynavigator.org).
  • Social media sites also require caution and scrutiny – Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogs about the disaster include emotional pleas for donations. Do not blindly give via these vehicles. As with any charity, investigate the groups behind such pleas to ensure that they come from a legitimate organization.

“The outpouring of concern and support for those affected by this tragedy is enormous, but unfortunately, so is the potential for fraud,” Rubenstein said. “We all must take precautions to ensure that the generosity of Connecticut residents is not abused. Please report suspicious solicitations to your local police and to the Department of Consumer Protection at 1-800-842-2649. Anyone caught engaging in fraudulent activity will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

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Media Contact: Claudette Carveth
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