Japanese Disaster Relief: AG Warns Against Fake Charities

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Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott issued a warning today to anyone thinking of donating to Japanese earthquake relief: Be careful who you're giving to.

"By doing a little research, well-meaning Texans can ensure their dollars actually help the recovery effort and aid victims -- rather than funding fraudulent scams set up to capitalize on a tragedy," the AG's office said.

One tip: "Watch for questionable charities using names that closely resemble the names of well-known charities." So don't go giving to the Redd Cross, people.

There are always charity scams in the wake of big disasters, so the AG's advice is definitely worth a look:

Ask for credentials, including the soliciting entity's exact name and telephone number, particularly if the purported relief organization is not well known. • Call the charity directly and confirm that the solicitor is actually working for that organization. • Find out how the donation will be used. • Be wary of appeals that are long on emotion and short on descriptions about how charitable contributions will aid the recovery effort. • Don't succumb to high-pressure tactics and demands for an immediate decision. A legitimate charity welcomes background checks on their operations. • Never give a credit card or bank account number to an unknown solicitor. • Never give cash and never agree to give money to a courier. Write a check to the charity directly -- not the soliciting individual -- and get a receipt.

Abbott suggests making sure the soliciting group scores well on the American Institute of Philanthropy's charity rating scale.

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