Beware of Earthquake Disaster Relief Scams

BALTIMORE (January 14, 2010) – Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler is advising Marylanders to be cautious about the relief organizations that they choose to give donations for the victims of the recent Haitian earthquake.

“Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous folks that will view this time as a way to capitalize on the generosity and compassion intended for Haitians affected during this disaster,” said Attorney General Gansler. “Be on the lookout for possible scams to verify that a relief organization is legitimate before donating.”

Consumers wishing to make donations to victims of the Haitian earthquake should confirm before making their donations that the charity allows donations to be earmarked for this disaster. The Attorney General offers the following suggestions to consumers who wish to make donations to victims of the Haitian earthquake:

-- Make donations to established charities.

-- Do not make cash donations—use credit cards or checks.

-- Check if the charity (and paid fund-raiser, if one is used) is registered with the Maryland Secretary of State.

-- Ask how much of the donation goes toward the charitable work and how much goes toward administrative costs or the fundraising company contacting the consumer.

Consumers should be skeptical of unsolicited e-mail requesting donations from organizations that they do not recognize or that have been organized solely in response to the Haitian earthquake. Donors should be wary in general of solicitations that require personal information. Bogus charities often use names and logos that closely resemble those of other more well-known organizations; make sure that you are giving your donation to the correct organization. Be wary of in-person solicitors who demand an immediate payment or solicitors who offer to send a courier to pick up checks before a consumer can change his/her mind.

Donors have the right to ask as many questions as necessary to make an informed decision about whether or not to donate. If the charity resists answering questions, Marylanders should not donate money.

For more information regarding charitable giving, consumers can visit the Attorney General’s website at

If consumers have any questions concerning a charity, they should call the Charitable Organizations Division of the Maryland Secretary of State’s office at 1-800-825-4510 or visit .

Source: Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler

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