Consumer Alert Includes Donation Tips for Philippine Relief

November 13, 2013, 9:26 AM HST · Updated November 13, 11:05 AM
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Philippines, November 2013. Typhoon Haiyan struck Philippines 8th November, 2013. Volunteers and staff working with food items at Philippine Red Cross HQ. Photo: Jarkko Mikkonen / Finnish Red Cross.

Philippines, November 2013. Typhoon Haiyan struck Philippines Nov. 8, 2013. Volunteers and staff working with food items at Philippine Red Cross HQ. Photo: Jarkko Mikkonen / Finnish Red Cross.

By Wendy Osher

State officials issued a special consumer alert to encourage donations following the devastating Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, but advised the public to first verify the donations are being made to reputable charities.

Citing the generosity of Hawaiʻi residents and the “close cultural and historical ties” between Hawaiʻi and the Philippines, officials with the state Attorney General’s office say Hawaiʻi residents will likely donate significant money to aid in rescue and relief efforts.

With many Hawaiʻi residents, businesses, and agencies seeking ways they can help, state Attorney General David Louie offered a list of tips to follow saying, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this tragedy, and I know the people of Hawaiʻi are already looking for ways they can help. However, we all must be careful of scammers and charlatans.”

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The consumer alert comes on the heels of several reports of suspicious individuals seeking donations in door-to-door activity in the Lahaina area of Maui. At least one resident said they planned to file a complaint with the Maui Police Department.

Maui police plan to release a similar list of tips as the one produced by the Attorney General’s office. Attorney General Louie offered the following tips:

  • “Donate to charities you know and trust. Be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight in connection with current events, like a natural disaster.
  • Consider giving to organizations that have a strong history of providing disaster relief, and ask about what percentage of the donation will benefit the relief effort.
  • Do not contribute cash. Make a check or money order payable to the charitable organization, not an individual.
  • Check out the charity with the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.
  • Determine whether the charity or fundraiser must be registered in your state by contacting the National Association of State Charity Officials, and if so, if it is registered.
  • Do not fall for high pressure tactics. Ask questions, and give only when you are comfortable that the donation will be applied to help the cause. Legitimate charities will not pressure consumers to donate and will provide as much information as a consumer needs.
  • Ask if a caller is a paid fundraiser, who they work for, and what percentage of your donation goes to the charity and to the fundraiser. If you do not get a clear answer–or if you do not like the answer you receive–consider donating to a different organization.
  • Do not give out personal or financial information–including your credit card or bank account number–unless you know the charity is reputable.
  • To avoid sham solicitations, contact the charity directly before giving a donation by email or to a door-to-door solicitor.
  • Finally, Attorney General Louie encourages consumers to review the Attorney General’s database of registered charitable organizations at the Attorney General’s office website.”

The Hawaiʻi Red Cross is among the many registered agencies that are offering a venue for Hawaiʻi residents to donate. The agency has also established a family tracing hotline to assist Hawaiʻi residents in their search for any missing family members in the Philippines.

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