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Be Careful Making Donations To Tsunami Victims

NBC17, Jan 3, 2004

Lancaster, PA (USA) -- Already reports are surfacing of fund-raising scams that claim to be helping out the tsunami victims.

On eBay, sellers are hawking teddy bears, jewelry and even a hand-carved Buddha, all claiming the proceeds will go to tsunami relief, reported WGAL-TV in Lancaster, Pa.

It's hard to tell if any of these fund-raisers are legitimate. Many sellers claim the money will go to UNICEF or the Red Cross, but the best way of making sure the money gets to the victims is to deal directly with well-established charities.

"Immediately after the reports of the tsunami and earthquake reached TV and radio, Red Cross began receiving calls from people who wanted to help," said Angie Dearoff, with the American Red Cross.

In a little more than a week, Red Cross donations topped $79 million.

The American Red Cross is synonymous with disaster relief, but there are many other organizations out there, and there are ways for you to check on their record of disaster assistance.

The American Institute Of Philanthropy gives grades to all charities, and right now, it is listing the top charitable groups for tsunami relief, including the Red Cross and the Mennonite Central Committee.

Another Web site called Charity Navigator gives more details on a charities' budget and organizational efficiency.

Be very wary of fund-raisers that ask you to make immediate donations on the phone. Instead, ask them to send you additional information in the mail.

While you may be tempted to donate clothing and other items instead of cash, that doesn't help relief efforts.

"What we try to explain to them is it's hard to transport those items. Right now, communication is still down over there. The roads have been washed out," Dearoff said.

And be cautious of newly-formed relief groups that may not be able to distribute their relief efforts.

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