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Beware relief effort scams following natural disaster

Saanich police are reminding people wishing to donate to relief efforts following the Japanese earthquake to be mindful of where your money is going.

"We see scams, as a matter of routine, after major incidents like this. We saw it after the tsunami in 2004, and after the Haiti earthquake last year," said Sgt. Dean Jantzen.

It's become common to receive e-mails or even phone calls from individuals claiming to be from reputable organizations requesting donations to help relief efforts, but they may not be who they say they are.

"Donate only to credible agencies. Mail a cheque, go in to an charity's office, go directly to their website – as opposed to a pop-up saying 'click here to donate," Jantzen said. "There's little to nothing we can do about it if you do get scammed because much of the time it's done offshore."

Chris Freimond, spokesperson for the Red Cross, says his organization is aware that its name is used by scammers.

"We don't have people proactively soliciting funds," Freimond said, referring to callers and door-to-door collectors claiming to be from the Red Cross. He says the best way to ensure your money winds up in the right hands is by instigating the donation process yourself, through a phone call, web address or in person.

"There are a number of ways people can donate, which we believe are secure and will ensure your donation goes to the right place," Freimond said.

kslavin@saanichnews.com

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