Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Helping Japan - Caveat Donator!

A lot of wonderful people want to help Japan recover from the earthquake/tsunami disaster we have experienced. Before you do, make sure you aren't being scammed, and then make sure that your donation gets spent where you intend.

Scam alert:

I recently stumbled across what I suspect is a big scam. "People" leave comments on news stories about the earthquake, or on stories listing charities to donate to, saying that they have "donated $100 to the American Red Cross" through Amazon.com. The comment also contains the url for a website which posts an article copied from the American Red Cross website, and links and banners with the American Red Cross name. They also say "it is safer to give through a name you know, like Amazon" .... Really?

Trouble is, the website url in the comment offers no information about who is running it. All the links - including "about us" and "contact us" take you back to the main article. Worse, the link for donating goes directly to Amazon payments with no intermediate pages, so for all you know, your donation is going to the owner of the bogus website! I did a little sleuthing and have found that this scheme has been used in the past for the Haiti earthquake disaster.

So, if you want to donate to American Red Cross through Amazon, you can do so, but do it by going directly to either Amazon or the American Red Cross website. Do not use a unknown 3rd party website.

Is your donation going to be used to help Japan?

Also, if you want your donation spent on Japan, you have to make sure of it. Many charities, including reputable ones like the American Red Cross, will be asking for donations by reporting on the disaster in Japan. But be advised, that does not mean they will spend your donation on helping Japan.

So, before you give, please read this article at Charity Navigator: Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. The article offers advice on making the decision to give, how to avoid scams, and a list of charities that Charity Navigator has analyzed and rated, which will use your donation to directly help the victims of this tragedy.

By all means, help Japan in this time of crisis, but do so wisely.

Until next, sweet sailing.


bonnie said...

Hi, Pandabonium - may I add a note here?

I actually just looked at the amazon.com home page, and they do actually have a big "Donate to the Red Cross" button on their site that works through the Amazon payment system. I don't know why you would go that way instead of straight to the Red Cross, but Amazon is clealy collecting.

Still, the advice given on this post is good to remember, for now and for always. We tend to jump to give at times like these, but it's always a good idea to take a few minutes to research your choices. It's not even just about scammers (and you can bet that there are some vultures out there who are unscrupulous enough to cash in) - it'll also let you avoid giving to organizations who are well-intentioned but poorly run and steer you to those with a solid track record of using donations well.

Pandabonium said...

Bonnie - paying through Amazon is fine. What I am referring to is someone who has set up a fake website that looks like it is to collect for Red Cross, but when you click the link, it goes to an Amazon page which will pay the guy running the fake website. Amazon, Paypal, cell phone services are all legitimate ways of donating - but you need to go directly to them, not through someone's questionable website.

Pandabonium said...

Bonnie - I re-wrote a couple of lines in the post just now to clarify. I am not saying don't donate through Amazon or PayPal or other legit sites. I am warning people not to go there through an unfamiliar 3rd party website because you don't know if their link to Amazon payment will pay the charity or pay the guy who set up the website. (I did not want to list the url).

bonnie said...

Oh, yes, that's true. It would be easy enough for somebody to set themselves up with a nice copy of the Amazon donation page & then go phishing.

I wish I could say that I can't believe people are that low, but I can.

bonnie said...

ps - I've updated my blog & facebook with the clarification.

Infuriating that warnings like this are necessary, but they are.


bonnie said...

pps - I think part of my misunderstanding was because I was reading too fast, just before I had to leave for work, and then I never went back and read more carefully. Sorry!

Pandabonium said...

No apology needed. I was not clear in my original write up. I was writing it too quickly. You aren't the only person I managed to confuse.