AUSTIN, TX - Many Texans make generous donations to charitable organizations when disaster strikes. Before reaching for their wallets to provide much-needed financial support for recovery efforts in Haiti, Texans should ask questions and check the facts. By doing a little research, well-meaning Texans can ensure their dollars actually help the recovery effort – and don't end up in the hands of a scam artist seeking to capitalize on a tragedy.
Texans who are solicited by telephone or e-mail and asked to make a charitable donation toward relief efforts in Haiti should keep the following in mind:
• Know the soliciting organization. Ask for credentials, including the exact name and telephone number of the organization, particularly if the charity is unfamiliar.
• Call the charity directly and confirm that the solicitor is actually associated with it.
• Be on the watch for questionable charities using names that closely resemble those of well-known charities.
• Find out how the donation will be used.
• Be wary of appeals that are long on emotion and short on descriptions about how charitable contributions will aid the recovery effort.
• Don't succumb to high-pressure tactics and demands for an immediate decision. A legitimate charity welcomes background checks on their operations.
• Never give a credit card or bank account number to a solicitor.
• Never give cash and never agree to give money to a courier. Write a check in the name of the charity, not the soliciting individual, and get a receipt.
For information about specific relief operations now underway, Texans should contact the American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP). AIP is a national charity watchdog service that assists donors with identifying reliable charitable organizations. Texans should visit their Web site at www.charitywatch.org.
Texans who wish to file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General regarding suspicious e-mail charity solicitations may call the Consumer Complaint Hotline at (800) 252-8011 or file a complaint online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.