Pa. AG Warns Residents of Bogus Charities Claiming to Assist Natural Disaster Victims

January 3, 2005

Pennsylvania Attorney General Jerry Pappert on Monday released tips on ways to spot potential scams or bogus charities seeking monetary donations to assist survivors of the deadly tsunami that hit
southern Asia and eastern Africa.

“Unfortunately, devastating events such as this one are viewed by thieves and con-artists as a great opportunity to rip-off those who want to help the suffering,” Pappert said. “This catastrophic event is likely to bring about some of the more egregious scams to be conducted under the guise of helping the sick, homeless and orphaned. My goal is to make sure that those who give money to this worthy cause are not taken advantage of and that their donations will be used to help those in desperate need.”

In the past, con-artists have contacted Pennsylvanians in person or by
telephone asking for money to assist the victims of natural disasters or acts of terrorism. To avoid becoming a victim of charity fraud Pappert offers the following advice:

— Contact Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Charitable Organizations to find out if a charity and their professional fundraisers are properly registered in the state before making a donation. The Bureau can be reached at 1-800-732-0999 or online at

— Avoid donating immediately when solicited. Bona fide organizations are receptive to answering prospective donor’s questions.
Organizations that cannot or will not comply with donor’s requests for additional information should be viewed with suspicion.

— Avoid donating to charities whose names may sound similar to established charitable groups. Check with the established group to make sure that they are soliciting and that your donation is going to their organization.

— Ask what portion of the contributions actually go toward the relief
effort as opposed to overhead, administrative or operational costs.
Ask what percentage of donations will be paid to professional solicitors.

— Ask how the money will be used and how many will benefit by the donations solicited.

— Make sure that your donation can be directed to the tsunami relief effort and not just to the general fund of a particular charity.

— Be cautious of newly formed organizations that may lack the infrastructure necessary to distribute their relief efforts. In some instances, organizations that provide direct services to beneficiaries are often preferable to those that simply forward money or supplies to other groups to distribute.

— Avoid donating to groups that may be well-intended, but lack the
infrastructure necessary to distribute their relief efforts.

— Never make a donation with a credit card unless you initiated the call or contact. Avoid requests for “cash donations only” or checks made payable to an individual or so-called “designated trustee.”

— Report suspicious fundraising activities to the Attorney General’s Charitable Trusts and Organizations section by calling 1-(800) 732-0999.

According to Pappert, “While the majority of charitable organizations and solicitations are honest and legitimate, it’s important to ask the right questions to spot those unscrupulous individuals who are out to personally profit from your donation.”

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