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Beware of scams when donating to Haitian relief efforts

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  • Beware of scams when donating to Haitian relief efforts

    Beware of scams when donating to Haitian relief efforts
    Published: January 16, 2010
    0 Comments | Post a Comment
    nowBuzz up!

    The American Red Cross has collected more than $37 million in donations since an earthquake struck Haiti on Tuesday.

    Of that amount, more than $9 million was funneled to the international charity by cell-phone users who pledged $10 simply by sending text messages.

    While millions have been collected for rescue and recovery operations, an untold amount will be siphoned off by scammers.

    Officials in Virginia and other states already have received reports of scams, said David Clementson, director of communications for the state attorney general's office.

    "Just because it's an emotional tragedy does not mean you turn off your common sense," he said. "Know that these crooks are out there trying to take your money."

    Two schemes already circulating: fake charities that have names very similar to well-known organizations; and spam e-mails that link to phishing Web sites that steal your personal information.

    In many spam cases, links in unsolicited Web sites will take you to real-looking sites of charities, such as the Red Cross, said Nick Newman, a computercrimes specialist with the Richmond-based National White Collar Crime Center.

    "These Web sites look like the real thing, but actually they're not," Newman said.

    People also should be suspicious of pleas for money on Facebook, MySpace and other social-networking Web sites.

    The need is immediate, but that does not mean you need to make snap decisions, said Phil Umansky, an associate professor at Virginia Union University's Sydney Lewis School of Business and a member of the Virginia Society of CPAs.

    Well-known charities, such as the Red Cross or UNICEF, are safer bets that your money will be used in the way you intended, he said.

    With smaller or unknown organizations, do research to see if they have nonprofit status and resources to do the work, he said.

    "You want to see if they have the resources on the ground so that they can get there and do work as efficiently as possible," he said.

    Other tips: Do not make cash donations; be cautious of unsolicited attempts to get money; and be skeptical of people claiming to be victims or government officials in need of assistance.
    "For all evils there are two remedies -- time and silence."

  • #2
    Re: Beware of scams when donating to Haitian relief efforts

    January 14, 2010
    Latest Internet scams pose as fake Haitian relief funds
    By Kathryn Gregory
    Staff writer

    CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If you're looking to donate money to a Haitian relief fund, do your research before you hand over your bank account number or credit card information.

    Spam campaigns designed to scam people into donating to a fraudulent Haitian disaster fund are popping up all over the Internet, according to the National White Collar Crime Center in Fairmont.

    Every time there is a natural disaster, Internet scam artist take advantage of unsuspecting people who are looking to help.

    "We saw the same types of things with Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami," said Nick Newman, computer crime specialist at the center.

    The most common type of scam is spam e-mails that ask people to click on a link to donate money to a Haitian relief organization fund.

    But Newman says beware -- it's just a crook behind that link.

    The most common thing people should watch out for is unsolicited messages in your spam e-mail.

    "If you haven't signed up to receive alerts or be contacted by a charitable organization, they're not going to contact you," he said. "So if you get something out of the middle of nowhere asking you to donate $50 to a disaster relief fund, odds are it's not legitimate."

    Most of the time, when people do fall for these types of scams, they're not just losing the money they donate. Internet crooks will wipe out an entire bank account.

    There has been more than $122 million in reported loses just from Internet charity fraud alone from the end of 2008 through the present.

    "That's a lot of money in a pretty short period of time," Newman said. "And who knows how many never reported losses."

    People interested in donating to help the relief efforts in Haiti should send their money to legitimate sources, such as the American Red Cross, AmeriCares, Direct Relief International, Doctors Without Border, The Salvation Army or Yele Haiti, among others.

    "Anytime you donate money to an organization, you should exercise due diligence and research the organization you're sending money to," Newman said. "A quick Internet search will tell you anything you want to know."

    If people are worried they have been the victim of Internet fraud, contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center at

    Reach Kathryn Gregory at [email protected] or 304-348-5119.
    "For all evils there are two remedies -- time and silence."


    • #3
      Re: Beware of scams when donating to Haitian relief efforts

      They announced earlier on the radio something about when you text to donate money you will get a confirmation number.
      Positive vibes, positive taught


      • #4
        Re: Beware of scams when donating to Haitian relief efforts

        One of the news reports I saw was pretty funny... the female reporter accidentally said "The red cross is aiming to earn.... errrr, raise X amount of dollars".

        Haiti's officials are corrupt to begin with, I wouldn't count on much of the donations to be used towards a worthy cause. Amongst all that mayhem, it would be impossible to coordinate an effective response even with the proper medical/food supplies.

        Throwing money at problems rarely makes them go away... it's the human effort that is needed on the ground.
        "Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you're a man, you take it." ~Malcolm X


        • #5
          Re: Beware of scams when donating to Haitian relief efforts

          A good charity to donate to is Partners in Health. No scams here. They’ve been in Haiti for years and have 120 doctors with 500 nurses (many locally trained) on the ground now. Mostly in the interior in the poorest areas but they are moving them to the capitol to set up field. hospitals. If you don’t feel safe donating by internet you can send them a check directly to their office.

          B0zkurt Hunter


          • #6
            Re: Beware of scams when donating to Haitian relief efforts

            The problem is not a shortage of volunteers, it's of effectively setting up medical facilities and providing clean water to well over a million people who are suddenly homeless, who may be seriously injured (and are dying of preventable infections)...

            Since the earthquake devastated the roads and the airport, we can't get the supplies there in the time needed to provide the basic relief to the survivors of the initial earthquake, and thus many of them are dying from what are ordinarily very treatable conditions.

            Of course it's a human effort, and of course things aren't perfect in this world. We can either point fingers wherever we can and do nothing, or encourage whatever help we as citizens can give. So I'm glad Virgil created this thread because it works towards the latter by reminding those who want to give donations to be more cautious, making sure that they choose a charity that will actual work towards providing relief.
            I was taught how to think.