Earthquake relief scams: Be alert to false donation solicitations

By Diane Walker - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Even though the need for help in Haiti is urgent, take time to investigate the organization soliciting donations, before handing over your money and personal information. Urgent warnings are going out tonight, from the F.B.I., the B.B.B. and Consumer Affairs. The number of scams and hoaxes, already going around, is astonishing.

They're everywhere; fake earthquake relief appeals are prevalent and persuasive. With so many scams circulating, on-line, you could get taken more than once. Twitter was buzzing with rumors. Bogus tweets that U.P.S. was shipping packages to Haiti for free, and American and Jet Blue were offering free flights to doctors and nurses to help out quake victims....phishing attempts, to steal people's identity.

"Be very sure that when you make a contribution, when you give them your credit card number, make sure that you are giving it to an organization that's not going to hold on to that credit card number and then use it for ill later on," said Tom Gallagher, BBB.

Gallagher says, take steps so your contribution doesn't end up in the wrong hands. Donate to an organization that already had a presence in Haiti, before the earthquake.

"Feet on the ground, in Haiti, in that region that they are used to dealing in that area," said Gallagher. "You've got the Red Cross, you've got Catholic charities, and the different children's organizations that have tremendous outreach in that region that you can contribute through."

Be careful of emails with disaster pictures in attached files. The attachment could contain a virus, and be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as survivors asking for donations through e-mail and social networking sites.

If it's a charity you're not familiar with, don't believe claims, regardless of how convincing that 100 percent of your donation will assist relief victims.

"That's really hard to do. It takes money to raise the money, it takes money to spend the money," Gallagher said.

You can easily check-out an organization through the Better Business Bureau's website. Don't click on links within e-mails and don't surrender your personal information. Something that's true, making the rounds on facebook, is sending a text to a number and the charity gets a donation. No worries about giving out your banking information. But, we don't know if your cell number will end up in some company's data base.

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