(in today's Daily Report
Advice and resources to avoid Haiti relief scams.
The FBI reminds Internet users who receive appeals to donate money in the aftermath of Tuesday’s earthquake in Haiti to apply a critical eye and do their due diligence before responding to those requests. Past tragedies and natural disasters have prompted individuals with criminal intent to solicit contributions purportedly for a charitable organization and/or a good cause. Therefore, before making a donation of any kind, consumers should adhere to certain guidelines, to include the following:
- Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming e-mails, including clicking links contained within those messages.
- Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as surviving victims or officials asking for donations via e-mail or social networking sites.
- Verify the legitimacy of nonprofit organizations by utilizing various Internet-based resources that may assist in confirming the group’s existence and its nonprofit status rather than following a purported link to the site.
- Be cautious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files because the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
- Make contributions directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf to ensure contributions are received and used for intended purposes.
- Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions: Providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.
David Vladeck, the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, writes:
Sometimes, the most difficult situations bring out the best in people. In the aftermath of the earthquakes in Haiti, many people are making financial contributions to support charitable organizations helping with the recovery and reconstruction.
In the past, the FTC has investigated and prosecuted scammers
who pretended to represent charities during a crisis. Given this experience, we hope you’ll put some thought into choosing which charity to support.
Our Charity Checklist consumer alert
offers tips to ensure that donation dollars benefit the people and organizations you want to help. Be wary of appeals that tug at the heart strings, but are short on details about how disaster victims will benefit.
You don’t have to give to someone who calls, writes or emails you out of the blue. It’s a good idea to give through a website or phone number that you know is legitimate.
To help with relief efforts in Haiti, the U.S. Department of State advises that you can visit InterAction
to contribute. Or text “HAITI” to “90999″ and $10 will be given automatically to the Red Cross, charged to your cell phone bill.
Fake-charity scammers are among the most despicable rip-off artists we encounter. It’s difficult to comprehend how someone could see a catastrophe affecting millions as an opportunity to steal, but it happens. So before you give, take a moment to ensure that you’re supporting a legitimate charity.
And if you think you’ve seen a scam, please report it