As many people generously open their hearts and wallets to help those affected by the earthquake in Peru, the Federal Trade Commission advises that the best way to help immediately is to donate money directly to established international relief organizations.
In a consumer alert, “Helping Earthquake Victims: Your Guide to Giving Wisely,” the FTC offers tips to those who want to help:
- Donate to recognized charities you have given to before. Watch out for charities that have sprung up overnight. They may be well-meaning, but lack the infrastructure to provide assistance. Be wary of charities with names that sound like familiar, or internationally known, organizations. Some phony charities use names that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations.
- Give directly to the charity, not the solicitors for the charity. That’s because solicitors take a portion of the proceeds to cover their costs, which leaves less for victim assistance.
- Do not give out personal or financial information – including your Social Security number or credit card and bank account numbers – to anyone who solicits from you. Scam artists use this information to commit fraud against you.
- Check out any charities before you donate. Contact the Better Business Bureaus’s Wise Giving Alliance at www.give.org.
- Do not 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 international charities like www.redcross.org.
- Ask for identification if you are approached in person. Many states require paid fundraisers to identify themselves as such and to name the charity for which they are soliciting.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, click http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/complaint.shtm or call 1-877-382-4357. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,600 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. For free information on a variety of consumer topics, click http://ftc.gov/bcp/consumer.shtm.