As our hearts go out to Japan, scammers are likely going for our wallets.
The FBI reportedly tracked approximately 4,000 phony charity websites that cropped up in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, with some scammers launching their sites before the hurricane had even made landfall.
Give to those organizations you know well, like the Red Cross.
Don’t respond to unsolicited incoming emails or randomly search for links on Google – because you could land on a lookalike site.
"I guarantee websites pop up in the next 24 hours that are likely to be fraudulent,” said Patrick Rooney, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, in a CNN interview.
And be especially wary of solicitations from telemarketers. Callers may be scammers seeking your account information.
You can check out charities on our Secretary of State's Web site. Guidestar is another good resource.
“If you decide to donate money to the Japanese tsunami relief effort, you would want your money to go where it can do the most good to help victims and their families,” said Secretary of State Sam Reed. “So we encourage you to check before you give by doing your homework on the charities asking for your money. We don’t want scammers to benefit from this tragedy.”
From CNN’s Web site and others:
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies accepts donations via text message. Text "redcross" to 90999, and you can make a $10 donation to the organization. It will show up on your next mobile phone bill.
The Salvation Army, which has had a presence in Japan since 1895, is sending a team to Sendai to assess damages and hopes to be providing food, water and other necessities by Friday night or early Saturday. In Tokyo, the Salvation Army opened its main building to house and feed commuters who were unable to reach their homes. The aid organization is accepting donations via text message. Those interested in contributing $10 to the group's efforts can text "japan" or "quake" to 80888.
The group AmeriCares, which is also accepting donations, said it is mobilizing resources and sending an emergency response manager to the region.
Save the Children is sending an emergency team to assist its staff in Japan.
Globalgiving.com, another aid organization that allows donors to select the causes they want to support – including climate change, economic development, human rights and natural disaster relief – has established a Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund. GlobalGiving will disburse funds to organizations providing aid and relief to victims.
International Medical Corps, which focuses on "health care training and relief and development programs," presently is speaking with local partners to determine Japan's most pressing needs. It will send supplies or emergency teams based on those communications. To contribute to the Corps' efforts, visit its website or text "med" to 80888 to send the group a $10 donation.
World Vision is distributing blankets.
InterAction.com, an alliance of U.S. nongovernmental organizations, lists additional relief organizations on its Web site.