Charleston, W.Va. – West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant is reminding citizens to watch for potential charity scams following the earthquake in Japan and the following tsunami that struck Hawaii and the West Coast.
The Secretary of State’s Office maintains an online searchable database of every charity licensed to solicit donations from West Virginians. That searchable database can be found at www.wvsos.com.
The database lists each charity as well as how much money the charity took in during the last year and how that money was disbursed. The disbursements are broken down by administrative costs, how much was paid to professional fundraisers, and how much went to the actual charitable programs.
Some well-known charities, like the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army, are not listed in the database because they are monitored on the national level.
Secretary Tennant said Friday that much like during the holiday season, the people of West Virginia are generous during times of natural disaster.
While the Secretary of State’s Office, which investigates allegations of charity fraud, has received no reports of charity fraud following the earthquake and tsunami, Tennant is reminding citizens to be watchful.
While charity fraud following a natural disaster isn’t common in West Virginia, it has occurred. Following Hurricane Katrina, the Secretary of State’s Office investigated and shut down a fraudulent charity in the eastern panhandle.
A “Guide to Safe Charitable Giving” can be found on the Secretary of State’s website. Some of the tips are to ask for documentation when solicited over the phone, be wary of emotional pleas that make you feel guilty about not giving, or if the person soliciting the donation is vague or evasive when asked where the donation will be going and how the money will be used.
Reports of possible charity fraud can be made to the Secretary of State’s Office Investigations Unit by calling (304) 558-6000.