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Horne Issues Warning about Relief Scams Following Japanese Disaster

PHOENIX (Monday March 14, 2011) -- With disaster relief efforts underway to help the people of Japan, Attorney General Tom Horne says consumers should be cautious and only make contributions to reputable, established charitable organizations.

“While tragedies such as the disaster in Japan bring out the best in most people, they bring out the worst in others and the result is that scam artists will prey on consumers who want to help by making a financial contribution,” Horne said. “I’m urging Arizonans to give generously to relief efforts, but to make sure their contributions are used for their intended purpose.”

Here are some tips for giving to charitable organizations:

  • Be skeptical of anyone asking for a donation by requesting your credit card number or bank account information over the phone unless you already donate to that charity.
  • Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as surviving victims or officials asking for donations.  
  • Make contributions directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf to ensure contributions are received and used for the intended purpose.
  • Don’t be shy about asking what percentage of your donation will go directly to the charity versus administrative costs.
  • Call the Secretary of State's Office at (602) 542-4285 or visit their Web site to make sure the charity is registered with the Secretary of State.  A charity that operates without such registration is violating the law and should be seen as a red flag for consumers. Be aware, however, that registration with the Secretary of State does not guarantee that all of the charity’s activities are legitimate.  Several Web sites, including  www.charitynavigator.org, and, provide information on the financial backgrounds of charities. These can be useful for consumers looking to research organizations they are considering for a donation. 
  • Do not pay bills or invoices you have received from charities unless you know you have already made a commitment to support them.
  • Remember to ask for a receipt and a statement that the contribution is tax deductible.

If you believe you have been a victim of fraud, please contact the Attorney General’s Office in Phoenix at 602.542.5763; in Tucson at 520.628.6504; or outside the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas at 1.800.352.8431.  To file a complaint in person, the Attorney General’s Office has satellite offices throughout the state with volunteers available to help.  Locations and hours of operation are posted on the Attorney General’s Web site.  Consumers can also file complaints on line by visiting the Attorney General’s Web site at www.azag.gov.  More tips specific to the Japan disaster are also available at:http://ftc.gov/opa/2011/03/earthquake.shtm.