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With the news in Japan, many of my friends and family have been discussing where they're donating aid.

Some have already have money to some charities and others are researching their options.

I thought it would be good to go ahead and looks at how you can improve your chances of getting your financial resources in the proper hands and away from charity scam artists.

Charity Scams – How to Protect Yourself

Those with generous hearts want to make sure their help is going to those who could use it. Here are some tips to guide you during your giving process.

  • Don't give to a charity you're not familiar with. Now is not the time to just go with your gut. Instead, choose a charity that has an established record. If you don't know any relevant ones, ask friends and family which charities they donate to.
  • Ask for the name, address, and phone number of the charity. Having (and verifying) the contact information you're given is important in case you have problems down the line.
  • Ask how much  of your donation goes directly to the cause. This is not a rude question – many charities are happy to share information on their organizations
  • Get a receipt with the name of the charity on it. Please don't give cash to a charity, if you've been scammed, it'll be almost impossible to track. Have a receipt to help you during tax time as well.
  • If you do fall victim to a scam artist, contact the Federal Trade Commission. Call the agency toll-free at (877) FTC-HELP to report it. It could help protect others from getting scammed as well.

I'd love to hear your feedback on this important issue. If you have any additional tips or stories about avoiding scams, please leave them in the comments. I'll try to update this post regularly.

Reputable Charities That Help Those Affected by Disasters

If you're looking for a reputable organization to support, here are some big ones that have the experience to help those in need.

Please check with their site to get updates on what they are doing with each disaster, as some organizations have criteria to assess the situation before intervening.

  • OxFam – The organization's main goals include fighting injustice and poverty around the world. They also respond to disasters as they happen globally.
  • Red Cross – This international organization tries to tackle several goals, including disaster relief. Each year, in communities large and small, victims of some 70,000 disasters turn to neighbors familiar and new—the more than half a million volunteers and 35,000 employees of the American Red Cross.
  • Doctors Without Borders – Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international medical humanitarian organization created by doctors and journalists. MSF provides aid in nearly 60 countries to people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe, primarily due to armed conflict,epidemics, malnutrition, exclusion from health care, or natural disasters.

Do you have a charity that I missed? Please include them in the comments. I'll look into them and update the list accordingly.

Thoughts on Giving During Disasters

Which organizations have you've worked with or donated to during a disaster? How did you find that charity?

Have you ever been contacted by a scam artist posing as a charity? What have you've done to protect yourself?

What advice do you have for others on avoiding scams?

Photo Credit: HowardLake

About Elle Martinez

Elle Martinez helps families at Couple Money achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt, increase income, and building net worth. Learn how to live on one income and have fun with the second..

2 comments add your comment

  1. I think this is important, and has gotten even more attention after hurricane katrina. I remember very well people opening their wallets and hearts to the red cross, then at the end of it all, red cross couldnt figure out where the money had gone.