Be wary of scammers claiming aid to South Pacific disaster - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Be wary of scammers claiming aid to South Pacific disaster

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Don't whip out your checkbook to donate to this week's relief effort in the devastated Samoan islands without first checking out who you are giving money to, the Office of Secretary of State cautioned Thursday.

Many local organizations are stepping up to aid the recent disaster in the South Pacific, where a tsunami, earthquakes and flooding have caused more than 100 deaths and dozens of missing people. While many of these groups responding to the crisis are long-standing, reputable charities, some may be bogus groups looking to cash in on people's generosity.

"When major disasters strike, it is heart-warming to see the immense reaction from the many registered charities who answer the call to help," said Secretary of State Sam Reed. "Sadly, many unscrupulous groups will use a tragedy as a chance to make a buck, and will scam well-meaning donors."

After both Hurricane Katrina and 9/11, a barrage of charity scams were reported nationwide after con artists moved in quickly to take money meant for victims.

The Secretary of State's Office has not heard of specific local groups using this week's disaster to run charity scams, but it warns the public to ask questions and be diligent about checking out charitable solicitors who say they are raising money for the tsunami relief effort.

Under state law, anyone who solicits charitable donations in Washington must register with the Secretary of State, and disclose how much raised money went toward an actual charitable cause.

Before you write a check to any charity, make sure you ask these questions:

  • Is the charity or fundraiser registered with the state of Washington?
  • What is the name, address and telephone number of the organization asking for the donation?
  • Exactly how will the donation be used?
  • What percentage of the contribution will actually be spent on the charitable purpose of the organization?

- Secretary of State

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