We've all seen the terrible pictures or videos of the devastation in Japan, and some of you may be moved to help by donating to a charity. Before you do, the Wisconsin BBB wants you to be aware of these tsunami-related scams that we've already seen in the few short days since the disaster occurred:
- Be careful of emails claiming to be from the "British Red Cross", asking you to use an online payment system to donate. The real "British Red Cross" has confirmed that this is a scam. Click here for more information.
- The Salvation Army reports that its name and logo has also been used to send phony emails to solicit donations to aid Japanese tsunami victims. Click here for more information.
- On Facebook, there are "clickjacking" scams that promise to show you a video of a whale being washed ashore during the tsunami. Don't click on any status updates that say, "24ftJapanese Tsunami Crashes Whale Into Building". Clicking on that status update won't show you the video, as promised. Instead, it will download malware to your computer and start spamming your friends.
- The BBB is also aware of celebrities selling wristbands and other items with promises to donate the proceeds to tsunami victims. Although well-intentioned, important information is not included in the offer, such as how much money will be donated per item, and to what charity. Please ask these questions before purchasing any items that you think will be helping tsunami victims.
- Some scammers are capitalizing on the nuclear reactor crisis in Japan by pushing potassium iodide kits. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that no U.S. resident needs to take potassium iodide because of the nuclear crisis in Japan. Click here for more information.
- Be wary of door-to-door appeals. If someone knocks on your door asking for a donation, ask them for written materials about the charity. A reputable charity should be able to provide them. In addition, tell the solicitor that you'd prefer to research a charity before you donate.
Before you give, research a charity at www.bbb.org. The Better Business Bureau and the Wise Giving Alliance have created reports on charities that can tell you about the charity's mission, finances, governance, and whether or not it meets the BBB's 20 Standards of Charity Accountability.
Here is a list of charities that have a presence in Japan and meet the BBB's 20 Standards of Charity Accountability.
If you have any questions, please call the Wisconsin BBB at 414-847-6000 (metro Milwaukee) or 800-273-1002 (elsewhere in Wisconsin).