Scams pervade tsunami relief

Capt. Christopher J. Olson
435th Air Base Wing Legal Office

The recent tsunami disaster in South Asia and East Africa initiated an outpouring of extraordinary generosity by the American public. Unfortunately, devious and unscrupulous individuals are preying on that generosity. Numerous telemarketing and Internet-based scams are proliferating as the extent of the devastation becomes increasingly apparent.

If servicemembers wish to give money to assist the relief effort, the most effective way to do so is by making cash contributions to humanitarian organizations that are conducting relief operations. 

Remember to be wary of unsolicited e-mail messages seeking donations which are strong on emotion, but weak on describing what the charity will actually do to address the needs of victims and their families. Be wary of giving any personal information whatsoever to unsolicited e-mails asking for funds. Also, do not send cash. Send a check or money order made out to the name of the charitable organization, not to an individual collecting the donation. If contributing to an online source, find out more about the charity before making a contribution and be aware of red flags. For example, some charities imitate the name and style of a well-known organization in order to confuse people. In addition, when clicking on the link to “donate,” look at the organization’s URL in the browser window. Exercise extreme caution if the domain name is hidden, is not familiar, or is not the same as the one stated in the text of the link.

For more information, call the 435th Air Base Wing Legal Office at 480-5911.

The USA Freedom Corps Web site,,
lists dozens of legitimate charitable organizations working to provide relief for the tsunami victims. In addition, the following
Web sites list legitimate charities and other valuable information:

AFPC Fundraising

BBB Alerts

BBB Wise Giving Alliance

FTC Charity Checklist