National charities accepting donations for Japan relief

Kevin Wilson

Local organizations contacted haven’t taken up large donation efforts for last week’s earthquake in Japan, but say many of their national affiliates are.

The official death toll from the 9.0 magnitude earthquake was at 2,800 Monday, but officials fear deaths may top 10,000.

Diana Cordova, director of multicultural affairs at Eastern New Mexico University, said one of her students had a stressful Friday as she awaited word from her family. The country was dealing with power outages and overloaded phone lines.

“She didn’t get a hold of them until Saturday, so it was pretty hectic for her,” Cordova said of the student, who did not want to do interviews or reveal her identity.

Erinn Burch, executive director of the United Way of Eastern New Mexico, is also the president of the High Plains Rotary Club in Clovis. She said the earthquake, and its aftermath of tsunamis, fell a few days before the club’s normal meeting on Tuesday, so she couldn’t speak to any efforts the club is undertaking.

“At United Way, we will accept designated gifts to the (earthquake and) tsunami,” Burch said. “We can forward it to Red Cross, or to other disaster organizations of (a donor’s) choice.”

Attempts to contact other local public service groups were unsuccessful.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation posted a press release on its website Monday warning of potential scams.

“The Federal Bureau of Investigation reminds the public to use caution when making donations in the aftermath of natural disasters,” the release said. “Unfortunately, criminals can exploit these tragedies for their own gain by sending fraudulent e-mails and creating phony websites designed to solicit contributions.

A few of the ways to donate include:

• The Red Cross: Similar to last year’s efforts in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, Red Cross is accepting donations either online or via text message. Text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 from your phone. A confirmation text will follow.

• The Salvation Army: The Japan branch is working in Tokyo to offer shelter to stranded commuters and its Hawaii branch is standing by. A $10 donation will be charged to users who text JAPAN or QUAKE to 80888.

• Convoy of Hope: The non-profit focusing on disaster relief efforts and you can donate $10 by texting TSUNAMI to 50555 and confirming the followup text.

• Globalgiving.org, Kiwanis International, and the other organizations listed above, allow donations through their website.

When donating

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has posted the following guidelines for dealing with charities:

• Do not respond to any unsolicited incoming e-mails, including clicking links contained within those messages; they may contain computer viruses.

• Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as members of charitable organizations or officials asking for donations via e-mail or social networking sites.

• Beware of organizations with copy-cat names similar to but not exactly the same as those of reputable charities.

• Search for the charity yourself rather than following links provided via e-mail or social networking sites.

• Be cautious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files because the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.

• Make contributions directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf.

• Do not be pressured into making contributions; reputable charities do not use such tactics.

• You are under no obligation to give personal and financial information.

• Avoid cash donations if possible. Pay by credit card or write a check directly to the charity (not individuals).

• Legitimate charities do not normally solicit donations via money transfer services.

• Most legitimate charities websites end in .org rather than .com.