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Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin Warns to be Cautious When Donating to Disaster Relief Efforts

In response to Japan’s recent massive earthquake and tsunami, many Rhode Islanders are eager to help victims by donating to one of the many relief efforts that have been announced. Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin is advising consumers to be cautious when donating to relief efforts to ensure they are not a victim of fraud.

“As news continues to emerge about the extent of the damage in Japan, our desire to help those in need may blind us to frauds perpetrated by criminals who exploit tragedies for their own gain,” said Attorney General Peter Kilmartin. “The best way to ensure your donation is directed to relief efforts in Japan are to be aware of the techniques used by scam artists, and only give to legitimate relief organizations after you’ve done your research.”

The Attorney General offers tips to consumers to keep in mind when donating to the relief effort:

Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as surviving victims or officials asking for donations.

Be skeptical of anyone asking for a donation by requesting your credit card number or bank account information over the phone unless you already donate to that charity.

Watch out for charities with names that sound similar to well-known organizations. Sometimes these sound-alike names are simply intended to confuse donors.

Be wary if the charity does not want to provide information about its programs and finances. Reputable charities will gladly provide the information requested.

If solicited in person, ask to see identification for both the solicitor and the charity.

Verify the legitimacy of the organization. Charities soliciting donations in the State of Rhode Island are required to be registered with the Department of Business Regulation at www.dbr.ri.gov. You may also check the legitimacy of a charity through the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance at www.give.org

Make contributions directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf to ensure contributions are received and used for the intended purpose.

Do not pay bills or invoices you have received from charities unless you know you have already made a commitment to support them.

Do not pay in cash. Donate with a check made payable to the charity.

Remember to ask for a receipt and a statement that the contribution is tax deductible.

Certain well-known charities such as the Red Cross will never solicit donations over the phone. If you believe you are a victim of consumer fraud, please contact the Consumer Protection Unit at the Department of Rhode Island Attorney General at (401) 274-4400. You can download a consumer complaint by visiting our website at www.riag.ri.gov. You can also email us at contactus@riag.ri.gov.


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