Coakley: Beware of illegit "charities" seeking earthquake donations

Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office has issued a cautionary message to those looking to donate funds to help earthquake victims in Haiti: beware of scammers and illegitimate agencies seeking to take advantage of the groundswell of sympathy.

Coakley states: “As this tragic situation unfolds in Haiti, we hope that people will consider making donations to charities and relief funds that can help those who have been impacted by this devastating natural disaster,” said Attorney General Coakley “There are many wonderful reputable charitable organizations who will surely play a role in assisting the people of Haiti as they recover
from this tragedy, but unfortunately there are groups and individuals who may try to take advantage of the situation to profit through fraudulent fundraising schemes.
"Before making a donation, we encourage people to do a little homework on the charity they are considering donating to, to ensure that their money is going to reputable charities that can best help those in need in Haiti.”

Coakley continued, "All charities and fundraisers operating in Massachusetts are required by law to register with the Attorney General's Office. This requirement also applies to businesses that advertise a portion of their sales will go to earthquake relief. While registration with the Attorney General’s Office does not indicate that the office approves or endorses the organization, it
does provide the public with valuable information regarding how long the organization has been in existence, its financial condition and its track record of complying with state registration and filing requirements."

To best assure that your donation will be used for its intended purpose, the
Attorney General’s Office offers the following suggestions:

- Check to see if the charity is registered and filing with the Attorney
General’s Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division. Registration
and filing information can be obtained online at or by calling the division at
617-727-2200 x2101. While in the immediate aftermath of this tragedy, there
may well be unregistered, but otherwise legitimate, charities appealing for
funds in Massachusetts, donors should be aware that giving to an
unregistered charity increases the risk that your donation may not be used
for the intended purpose.
- Know your charity. Take the time to verify the address, phone number,
contact information, and review the website and written material, when
possible. Consider a charity’s history, purpose, track record and
reputation, and never give to a charity you know nothing about. If you have
any doubts, well established charities with experience in disaster relief
are generally a good choice.
- In addition to doing research about particular charities, go to
websites such as,, and, where you will find additional information to help you
understand a large number of charities. While this tragedy is still
unfolding, some of those websites, and others, will in time evaluate and
rate the effectiveness of the many charities that will become involved in
providing help.
- Examine your options. Do not feel compelled to give to the first
charity you come across. There are a number of established relief
organizations already responding to the diverse needs created by the
tragedy; in time there may also be legitimate, smaller charities that will
emerge to focus on specific populations and communities.
- Be wary of appeals that are long on emotion. The hard luck tale is a
favorite ploy of a phony operator. A legitimate charity will tell you how
it's using your money to address this horrific disaster.
- Ask lots of questions. How much of the money goes to the charity and
how much to a professional fundraiser? Ask who employs the telephone
solicitor, if your contribution is tax deductible and what the charity
intends to do with any excess contributions that might remain after the
victims' needs are addressed.
- Beware of professional fundraisers who try to make their solicitations
sound like they are coming directly from the charity itself or volunteers.
- Do not pay by cash. Pay by check, and make it out to the charity (use
its full name; don't use initials), not the fundraiser. Never give your
credit card number to a fundraiser over the telephone. If the fundraiser
directly approaches you, ask to see identification. It is best to mail your
check directly to the charity.
- If you are contributing over the Internet, make sure that the website
you are visiting belongs to a legitimate, established, and registered
charity, and that the website and the charity match. See if other legitimate
websites will link to that website. After tragedies of this nature, there
are always individuals who will use the Internet to perpetrate fraud, and
you should make sure that the website you visit is operated by the charity
you want to donate to. Also, you should make sure the site is secure and
will offer protection for your credit card number.

Individuals with inquiries or complaints about charitable solicitations
should call the Attorney General’s Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities
Division at *617-727-2200 x2101* or write to:

*Office of the Attorney General*

*Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division
One Ashburton Place
Boston, MA 02108*

For additional information on charitable giving, consult the Attorney
General's website: