Alert
Close

Watch the NASCAR race on Sunday at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Join the Drive to End Hunger!

Highlights

Open

Think You Know AARP Caribbean Cruise Sweepstakes

Money & Work

Contests and
Sweeps

Safe Driving in 2014 Sweepstakes

Learn how AARP Driver Safety can help you stay safe—and enter for a chance to win $1,000. See official rules. 

Driver Safety

Piggy bank on the road - AARP Driver Safety

Take the new AARP Smart Driver Course!

AARP Books

Visit the Money Section

Enjoy titles on retirement, Social Security, and becoming debt-free.

Jobs You Might Like

most popular
articles

Viewed

Ask the Experts

Avoid Earthquake Relief Scams for Japan

Safely get your money to where it's needed

Telephone

Never give personal or financial information, including a credit card number, to someone who calls you unsolicited.

Legitimate charities may solicit by phone but will always send you authenticating paperwork if you ask for it. Hang up on anyone claiming to represent an organization with a name that "sounds like" a well-known charity's name.


Door-to-door solicitations

News of a catastrophe can soon have waves of crooks ringing doorbells, so if you donate this way, be very careful. Never give cash. Checks should never be written to individuals, but to the organization. Ask for written material about the group. If the person has nothing to offer, consider it a red flag.


With all these forms of donating, you should always check a charity's authenticity and track record before you give a cent. Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations assist victims. All charities have fundraising and administrative costs. Legitimate organizations typically spend up to 25 percent of donations on such costs.

You can find out about charities by visiting the Wise Giving Alliance run by the Better Business Bureau; Charity Navigator; Charity Watch; or GuideStar.

If you believe you've fallen victim to a disaster relief scam, report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud, part of the U.S. Department of Justice, or by calling 1-866-720-5721 toll-free. Report disaster-relief spam e-mails and suspicious websites to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Sadly, law enforcement agencies have lots of experience with this crime. After Hurricane Katrina, some 6,000 relief websites quickly popped up, many proving to be scams, according to the FBI. Nearly 1,500 people were later indicted on fraud charges related to those bogus relief efforts, along with donation scams after Hurricanes Rita and Wilma.

After last year's earthquake in Haiti, hundreds more fell victim to relief scams.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this tragedy," said Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel after first news arrived from Japan.

"Unfortunately, if our experience with earlier tragedies is any guide, we suspect that there may be so-called charities that would try to take advantage of generosity by scamming people out of donations intended for disaster victims."

Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

The Cheap Life

Jeff Yeager Cheap Life Ultimate Cheapskate AARP YouTube web series save money

Catch the latest episode of The Cheap Life starring Jeff Yeager, AARP's Ultimate Cheapskate. Watch

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Life insurance: you are covered rain or shine

Exclusive annuities for members from AARP Lifetime Income Program from New York Life.

AARP Credit card from Chase

Members can get cash back rewards on purchases with the AARP® Credit Card from Chase.

Homeowners Insurance
Member Benefits

Join or renew today! AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.