Beware of scammers during earthquake relief efforts - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Beware of scammers during earthquake relief efforts

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- The Japanese government is trying to get help to hundreds of thousands of people along the country's ravaged coast. Of course, natural disasters, like this one can bring out the generosity of people. But can unfortunately, bring out scammers who take advantage of people and prey upon people who want to help the victims.

So it's a reminder to do your homework when it comes to giving. According to the Iowa Attorney General's Office, no scams have been reported but as history shows, after Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti, some people take advantage of generosity.

News spread across the world Friday, after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck the country of Japan.

"The Red Cross has been interacting with the Japanese Red Cross to provide assistance," Red Cross of the Tri-states Director of Support Michelle Kennicott said.

On the other side of the world, The Red Cross of the Tri-States was already receiving phone calls about how to help.

"We live in a wonderful community and already we've gotten phone calls. We've had school calls to learn how. And so everyone has been responding to the disaster," Kennicott said.

But officials worn to be careful about scam artists taking advantage of generous people.

"We do not solicit for donations. That's another thing you want to be aware of. Telemarketing and event e-mail solicitations we don't send e-mails our asking people for donations," Kennicott said.

And that's just one of the many red flags. Officials with the Red Cross urge you to do your research, make sure you donate to a familiar charity. If you donate online, make sure it's a secure website. Also, when at all possibly pay via check or credit card. Don't donate cash.

And if the supposed charity demands the money immediately, it's probably not legitimate.

"We're open, we're a local chapter. Give us a call if you have any questions. We have a legitimate website as well with a national number that you can call to make sure you're money is going in the right place," Kennicott said.

This is a situation where it's good to go with your gut. If the charity doesn't sound legitimate, check for a website. Find a local office and verify before you donate.

Of course, we're not discouraging you from donating, just make sure your money is actually going to the cause.

Consumer protection says only donate to established, reputable organizations, like the Red Cross, UNICEF, World Vision or other charitable organizations you know of.

Here are two reputable charities you can donate to:

Text the word "japan" to 8-0-8-8-8 to give a $10 donation to the Salvation Army's earthquake relief work.

You can also donate $10 to the American Red Cross by texting "redcross" to 9-0-9-9-9.

Online Reporter: Lauren Squires

Follow Lauren on Twitter.

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