In the Wake of Japan's Massive Earthquake, FTC Warns Consumers About Potential Charity Scams

Tips for Consumers

After the earthquake that rocked Japan’s northeast coast and triggered a widespread tsunami last week, the Federal Trade Commission is urging consumers to be cautious of potential charity scams.

The FTC, the nation’s consumer protection agency, warns consumers to carefully consider urgent appeals for aid that they receive in person, by phone or mail, by e-mail, on websites, or on social networking sites.

The agency’s Charity Checklist advises consumers about donating wisely to charities.  If you are asked to contribute to a charity, the FTC recommends that you:

  • Ask for the name of the charity if the telemarketer does not provide it promptly;
  • Ask what percentage of your donation will support the cause described in the solicitation;
  • Verify that the charity has authorized the solicitation;
  • Do not provide any credit card or bank information until you have reviewed all information from the charity and made the decision to donate;
  • Ask for a receipt showing the amount of the contribution and stating that it is tax deductible; and
  • Avoid cash gifts. For security and tax record purposes, it’s best to pay by check – made payable to the beneficiary, not the solicitor.

For more information about how you can help disaster victims in Japan, visit the U.S.
Agency for International Development website.

The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. Watch a new video, How to File a Complaint, at ftc.gov/video to learn more. The FTC enters consumer complaints into the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database and investigative tool used by more than 1,800 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

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