Officials are warning people to watch out for scams as they look for ways to donate to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami relief effort.

There have been reports of bogus fundraising on the internet.

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Globefish, a restaurant in the Kensington area, is taking donations for the Canadian Red Cross to help Japan. (John Spittal/CBC News)

"They're relatively easy to avoid if people just follow the normal sort of advice: go to reputable organizations such as Doctors Without Borders, the Humanitarian Coalition, the Red Cross," said Mark Blumberg, a Toronto lawyer who specializes in charity issues.

"You go to reputable organizations, directly to their website, and you donate that way. Then you're reasonably assured that your money will be appropriately spent," he said.

Blumberg added that it's best to make donations by cheque, so that there's a paper record of the gift.

At Globefish, a Japanese restaurant on 10th Street N.W., Kayoko Ohara's donation box has taken in almost $1,800 so far.

Even though Ohara's box has the familiar Canadian Red Cross logo on it, some donors still ask her what exactly happens to their donations. 

Legitimate fundraisers will have no problems answering those questions, said Sharon Lopatka, a spokeswoman for Service Alberta.

"You should not give cash or wire transfers. And what you want to do is, if you make out a cheque, make it out to an organization, not an individual," she said.

She says the province has come up with some basic tips to avoid being conned:

  • Ask door-to-door canvassers for identification or printed information about the charity.
  • Google the charity's name and background.
  • Contact Service Alberta to find out if a charity or fundraising organization is licensed or registered.