Last Friday's 9.0-magnitude earthquake off Japan's coast continues to impact that nation. The tragedy is unfolding in ways natural and manmade, threatening to grow in scope.
While northwest Ohio literally is half a world away, it is possible for our readers to help survivors of the quake, tsunami and resulting nuclear disaster. Donations through reputable charities and service organizations can help feed and shelter those whose lives have been devastated by the calamities.
Let us emphasize the need to direct aid through legitimate agencies. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has warned residents to be wary of telephone solicitors seeking donations on behalf of quake and tsunami victims. And bogus e-mails aiming to scam people out of monetary gifts already are circulating on the Internet.
Following are tips to help avoid scams and donate wisely to trusted charities:
Be wary of online solicitations. Spam and e-mail solicitations from charities claiming to be linked to relief groups are common after natural disasters. It's better to go to your favorite charity's website or call in your donation to ensure your money doesn't go to the wrong place.
Do your homework. Check out the organization at sites for the Better Business Bureau, www.bbb.org; the Foundation Center, www.foundationcenter.org, a New York-based authority on philanthropy; or Charity Navigator, www.CharityNavigator.org, an independent nonprofit organization that evaluates charities based on effectiveness and financial stability.
Watch for phony names. Some bogus charities use names that sound or look like those of legitimate organizations to mislead you. For example, "foundation" in an organization's name might be replaced with "association" or another word to confuse donors.
Check Web addresses. Avoid sites that end in a series of numbers and note most nonprofits have sites that end with ".org," not ".com."
Don't pay in cash. It's best to pay by check or money order, in the interest of security and for your tax records. Make sure to address it to the full name of the charitable organization, not anyone acting on behalf of the charity.
Check with the charity. If you are dealing with a telemarketer who claims to be working on behalf of an organization, check with the charity to verify that it has authorized the solicitation.
If your financial situation doesn't allow you to donate, there still is something you can do to help: pray.