A.G. Schneiderman Offers Tips To New Yorkers Donating To Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Relief Efforts

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today encouraged New Yorkers to assist relief efforts overseas, and released important information for New Yorkers planning to donate to Japan earthquake and tsunami relief efforts.

“The devastating earthquake and tsunami have caused unimaginable loss, and many New Yorkers are eager to help the people of Japan as they confront the challenges before them,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “This office encourages such generosity, and will work with New Yorkers to ensure the donations they make are protected. Anyone planning to make a charitable donation should be sure to review these tips to protect themselves and ensure help goes where it is intended.”

The Attorney General offers the following tips for those contributing to the relief effort:

Give to Established Charities. Donate to organizations you are familiar with, or have an experience assisting in disaster relief. Closely examine the charities that appeared solely in response to an event, or those with unfamiliar names.

Look Charities Up. Review information about the charity before you give.  Check the Attorney General’s website – www.charitiesnys.com – for financial reports on charities, or ask the charity directly for its reports. Confirm that the charity is a recognized tax-exempt organization.  The following websites contain helpful information to evaluate charities:

Before You Text A Contribution... Check the charity’s website or call the charity to confirm it has authorized contributions to be made via text message. One thing to keep in mind is that donations via text messaging may not reach the charity until after your phone bill is paid. It may be faster to contribute directly to the charity.

Ask How Your Donation Will Be Used. Ask specifically how the charity plans to use your donation, including the services and organizations your donation will support.  Ask if the charity already has worked in Japan or has relationships with any local relief organizations.  Also, ask what the charity plans to do with any excess donations.  Avoid charities that make emotional appeals but are vague in answering your questions.  Be wary if an organization will not provide written information about charitable programs and finances upon request. Any legitimate organization will be glad to send you this information.

Avoid Unsolicited Spam Emails. These formats are usually not associated with legitimate charities. Check the Department of Homeland Security tips, such as Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks that are posted at http://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/tips/ST04-014

Never Give Cash. Give your contribution by check made payable to the charity.

Be Careful About Personal Information.   Avoid giving credit card or personal information over the phone or by text message. In all cases, make sure you are familiar with the organization and check to see that the fundraising campaign is legitimate.

Report Suspicious Organizations. If you believe an organization is misrepresenting its work, or that a scam is taking place, please contact the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau at charities.bureau@ag.ny.gov or 212.416.8402.