Wash. AG Warns of Effective Tsunami Relief Efforts

January 10, 2005

While citizens are encouraged to consider giving generously to tsunami-relief efforts, Washington’s Attorney General’s Office is advising doing some research to make sure the relief money is going to organizations that will use the donations effectively.

The best advice is to give to well-established organizations with proven track records of assisting in foreign countries following major disasters.

By last Monday, the Attorney General’s Office had received no complaints from residents of this state about potentially fraudulent fundraising activities on behalf of earthquake and tsunami survivors. Nevertheless, caution by donors is still recommended because experience from past disasters has shown that some will always try to take advantage of the generosity of others.

More than 140,000 people are known dead following a tsunami that hit on the heels of a 9.0 earthquake Dec. 26 off the coast of Sumatra in Indonesia. A worldwide relief effort is under way to aid millions of survivors now threatened with disease and starvation in the wake of the disaster.

Under Washington law, charities and commercial fundraisers working on behalf of those charities must be registered with the Secretary of State’s office before they can solicit Washington residents.

The Attorney General’s Office suggests these tips for wise giving:

* Never send money to phone solicitors representing charities that are unknown.
* Watch out for sound-alike names of charities—sounds familiar, but not legitimate.
* Avoid giving credit-card information to phone or door-to-door solicitors.
* Beware of charities that offer to immediately send a courier to collect the donation.

If not familiar with an organization but are considering donating money to them, check with the Washington Secretary of State’s office, http://www.secstate.wa.gov/charities to see if the charity is registered and to obtain the organization’s financial information. Registration does not mean endorsement. The state does not endorse any specific charity.

To further research charities, also check with www.networkforgood.org and www.give.org, which is affiliated with the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.

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