In the wake of the devastation caused by flooding in Pakistan and along the border between China and North Korea, the Federal Trade Commission warns consumers to choose carefully when considering urgent appeals for aid in the news, online, and at social networking sites. The best way to provide immediate help is to donate money directly to established national relief organizations that have the experience and means to deliver aid.
The FTC, the nation's consumer protection agency, has these tips to help consumers give wisely:
- Donate to recognized charities that you have given to before. Watch out for those that have sprung up overnight. They may be well-meaning, but probably lack the infrastructure to provide effective assistance. And be wary of charities with names that sound like familiar or nationally known organizations. Some phony charities use names that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations.
- You don’t have to donate to someone who contacts you out of the blue with an unsolicited e-mail, phone call, or text message. It’s better to give through a Web site or phone number that you know is legitimate, such as the U.S. Department of State page titled Donate to the Pakistan Relief Fund, at http://www.state.gov/pakistanrelief/index.htm.
- Check out any charities before you donate. Contact the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance at www.give.org.
- Don’t give or send cash. For security and tax record purposes, contribute by check or credit card. Write the official name of the charity on your check. You can contribute safely online through national charities like www.redcross.org/donate.
- Ask for identification if you’re approached in person. Many states require paid fund-raisers to identify themselves as such and to name the charity for which they are soliciting.
- For more information, visit ftc.gov/charityfraud.
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.
(FYI Pakistan Flood)