Do your research before donating to disaster relief efforts

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QUINCY — On New Year’s Day 2024, a magnitude 7.6 earthquake and aftershocks hit Ishikawa prefecture in western Japan, leaving at least 62 dead and causing serious damage.

Donors wishing to support relief efforts in Japan should look for trusted, experienced organizations that are transparent about how donations will be used.

It’s important to do your research when donating, especially to international relief efforts. Major charitable movements can sometimes attract scammers looking to cash in on donors’ generosity. You’ll also want to be sure that the organization you’re donating to is ready and able to provide relief.

Before you donate to an organization, BBB recommends getting as much information as possible about its experience with disaster relief and how it will use your donation. That way, you can be confident that your donation will help others.

BBB’s tips for donating wisely:

  • Beware of high-pressure appeals. While this is a time-sensitive crisis, there is always time to take a few minutes to research an organization before donating. Beware of messages that pressure you to donate immediately. If you’re not sure about donating, wait.
  • Research in advance. Find out if the charity is experienced in providing emergency relief – established organizations are better equipped to mobilize quickly. Use Give.org to research the charity’s track record and check whether it is a BBB Accredited Charity.
  • Find out if the charity can get to the impacted area. Relief organizations that already have a presence in Japan will be positioned to provide relief quickly.
  • Know where your money is going. Don’t assume you know what the organization does based on name alone. Research on the charity’s website or ask a representative to provide information about how donations are used.
  • Double check the name. Some scammers use similar names to impersonate a trusted organization. Fight impostors by double checking the name of the nonprofit and their web address, email and phone number before giving any money.
  • Don’t click links. Be cautious about unsolicited text messages or emails that claim to link to a relief organization, and don’t click the links. They could be a phishing attempt. If you want to give to a charity involved in relief efforts, go directly to the charity’s website.
  • Be alert to social media scams. Don’t respond to social media appeals without verifying the trustworthiness of the source or the specified charity.
  • Crowdfund with caution. If you’d like to donate through a crowdfunding website, remember that it’s safest to give to someone you personally know and trust. Keep in mind that not all crowdfunding sites vet posts. If the poster claims they will forward funds to a charity, consider giving your donation to the charity directly instead.
  • Ask before donating items like clothing and food. Local drives to collect clothing and food to send overseas may not be practical. Relief organizations on the ground are often better equipped to obtain what is needed and distribute it effectively.

Don O’Brien is the regional director for the Quincy Better Business Bureau. Contact him at dobrien@quincybbb.org or (217) 209-3972.

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