Online tool ferrets out bogus charities

  • Tue Jan 19th, 2010 7:21pm

By Mina Williams Enterprise editor

The powerful earthquake in Haiti prompted international leaders and aid organizations to urge donations toward relief efforts.

“Right now, you may feel compelled to help the families of thousands of victims there by making a donation,” said Rebecca Sherrell, charities manager in the Office of Secretary of State. However, she cautioned, taking just a moment to check the validity of a charity may mean the difference between your dollars reaching earthquake victims or not.

In Washington, international or local groups raising money must register with the state.

“At these times, with these types of disasters, it brings out people who want to prey upon our generosity to help people,” Sherrell said.

To assist citizens in being generous, the state has an online tool to check if a group is registered. Going online to and clicking on “charities” will bring you tab options where you can select general giving information or a “charity search” tab where specific names of charities can be explored.

“Don’t let emotions cloud good judgment when it comes to donating your money,” Sherrell said. “Often, scammers use tragedies like these to say they are helping a cause and to pocket the donations of generous people. Don’t be fooled.”

She also suggests asking how much of your donation will go to the charitable cause. And don’t deal with folks who won’t give you straight answers or are high pressure.