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Saturday, August 20, 2011

7 safe ways to donate to Japan


The simplest way to help when disaster strikes is to open up you wallet — or even to send a text message. After the Haiti earthquake, for example, the American Red Cross received $32 million in text donations.

Here is a list of organizations that are collecting money — and even socks — for relief efforts in Japan. So far, GlobalGiving has raised more than $850,000 for its Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund. But with large sums of money sloshing around, scams are certain to follow. “Whether it is hurricanes in the South, the gulf oil spill or the earthquake in Haiti, the scammers lied in wait,” reports Mitch Lipka, WalletPop‘s former consumer reporter who has started contributing to dealnews. He offers seven tips to avoid getting scammed.

Lipka’s advice:

  • Be wary of people or groups making urgent appeals for money whether in person, by phone mail, email, websites or social networking
  • If a telemarketer calls, ask the name of the charity if it’s not provided right away and then ask what percentage of your donation will go to the charity.
  • Follow-up on that, if you’re still interested, by verifying the charity authorized that solicitation.
  • Don’t feel pressured to give out your credit card or bank account numbers; wait until you’ve decided that the charity is legitimate and you’re comfortable.
  • Be sure to get a receipt and record that your donation is tax deductible.
  • Don’t give cash and don’t write a check in the name of the solicitor rather than the charity.
  • For those who want to leverage their contributions to a legitimate organization, look to double your money with matching donations. Dealnews, for one, will match contributions to the American Red Cross up to a total of $25,000.
And before you dig into your pocket, read this provocative piece from Felix Salmon. He makes a good case for donating to organizations like Doctors Without Borders, “which don’t jump on natural disasters and use them as opportunistic marketing devices.” His advice? Donate to organizations that use the funds in an unrestricted way.

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