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Earthquake in Japan - Watch out for charity scams

Canada's response to the earthquake in Japan

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada Canada's response to the earthquake in Japan

News of the devastating earthquake in Japan has prompted many Canadians to donate to aid agencies promising to help. In the wake of this tragedy, fraud artists are hoping to profit from people’s generosity. The RCMP would like to remind Canadians to be wary of false charity scams. Consider the following precautions to make sure your donations benefit the people and organizations you want to assist:

  • Be wary of appeals that tug at your heart strings, especially pleas involving current events.
  • Ask for written information about the charity, including name, address and telephone number. A legitimate charity or fund-raiser will give you information about the charity's mission, how your donation will be used and proof that your contribution is tax deductible.
  • Ask the solicitor for the registered charitable tax number of the charity. Question any discrepancies. Confirm the charity’s registration information through the Canada Revenue Agency (1-800-267-2384).
  • Check out the charity's financial information. For many organizations, this information can be found online.
  • Ask for identification. If the solicitor refuses to tell you or does not have some form or verifiable identification, hang up or close the door and report it to law enforcement officials.
  • Call the charity. Find out if the organization is aware of the solicitation and has authorized the use of its name. If not, you may be dealing with a scam artist.
  • Watch out for similar sounding names. Some phony charities use names that closely resemble those of respected, legitimate organizations. If you notice a small difference from the name of the charity you intend to deal with, call the organization to check it out.
  • Be skeptical if someone thanks you for a pledge you don't remember making. If you have any doubts about whether you've made a pledge or previously contributed, check your records. Be on the alert for invoices claiming you've made a pledge. Some unscrupulous solicitors use this approach to get your money.
  • Refuse high pressure appeals. Legitimate fund-raisers won't push you to give on the spot.
  • Be wary of charities offering to send a courier or overnight delivery service to collect your donation immediately.
  • Be wary of guaranteed sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a contribution. According to law, you never have to donate anything to be eligible to win.
  • Avoid cash gifts. Cash can be lost or stolen. For security and tax record purposes, it's best to pay by cheque.
  • To file a police complaint, contact your local police force. To ensure that your complaint information is shared with other law enforcement agencies, also file a report with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (formerly PhoneBusters) by calling 1-888-495-8501.