Learn how to avoid Japan aid scams

A scene of destruction from the Japan tsunami of early 2011.

A flood of false charities have popped up to swindle money from people seeking to donate to Japan tsunami relief. (Photo Credit: CC BY/DVIDSHUB/Flickr)

When international tragedy strikes, unscrupulous con artists arise to take advantage of well-meaning individuals who wish to donate to legitimate relief efforts. Unfortunately, recent Japan tsunami relief efforts have been similarly plagued. With help from Consumer Reports and the Better Business Bureau, you can learn how to avoid Japan aid scams and send your money to its intended destination.

Untangling the Web of Japan tsunami relief

Fake charities with well-designed websites and slick telemarketing schemes may be cutting in to some of the donations earmarked for Japan tsunami relief. However, a number of well-known organizations are spearheading efforts to bring economic relief to areas of northern Japan devastated by earthquake, tsunami floods and radiation from the damaged Fukushima nuclear reactor.

The American Red Cross is accepting online donations and $10 text donations (text “redcross” to 90999). Additional information is available at the American Red Cross FAQ page.

Send money, please

The White House Those who wish to contribute should donate to organizations like U.S. Aid and InterAction, which both have programs in place to send aid to Japan. U.S. Aid and InterAction encourage monetary contributions because goods are difficult to collect and transport in the more devastated areas of the Japan disaster relief effort. Whenever possible, give to organization like these, which contribute directly to relief efforts. Don’t use a middleman that funnels the money through another charity portal before it reaches the front lines.

Six tips for directing charitable donations

The Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance offers Americans six tips when it comes to choosing a Japan aid charity:

  • Use expert sources like the American Red Cross and Better Business Bureau when choosing a charity
  • Be cautious with e-mails soliciting donations
  • Research the charity to see if it gives direct aid
  • Remember: No legitimate charity can guarantee 100 percent of money will assist tsunami victims
  • Ask the charity about transportation and infrastructure to ascertain experience
  • Understand exactly how much you’re donating before agreeing


American Red Cross FAQ
Better Business Bureau
Center for International Disaster Information
Consumer Reports
U.S. Aid

The logistics of organizing international aid for Japan

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