As rescue groups travel from all over the world to assist the Haitian people they need more than just physical help. Organizations like the Red Cross and World Health Organization are in dire need of financial support from people across the world. As terrible as it sounds, many people take advantage of disasters like this to make money themselves. Don’t be fooled when you are donating money; make sure your contributions are going to reputable organizations. These scams have been prevalent in past catastrophes such as Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Asian Tsunami.
Since the disaster occurred hundreds of new sites related to Haiti have been registered. A good portion of these sites will either link you directly to a reputable relief site or charity. Unfortunately, some sites will look like a charity site, but in reality will be bogus. Most will have a donate button (like most charity sites) except the money will never find its way to the relief fund often the creators capture your credit card information for later misuse. Relief scams may also include “phishing” emails, which are trying to capture your personal information, or emails from the “family and friends” of Haitian nationals trying to get money to help their families. Daniel Borochoff, President of the American Institute of Philanthropy said “Beware of people sending emails claiming to be individuals in need of help. It’s very easy to throw up a website that appears to be a legitimate charity even if it is not.”
Here are some tips to insure you don’t get scammed:
Be cautious donating online – the ease of buying a website and making it look real quickly can give the impression of a real relief organization. Most non-profits use .org rather than .com so that is an easy indicator.
Never donate to individuals,only organizations
Do your research – if you are not familiar with an organization do your background research before giving away personal information
Give money rather than clothing, food, etc – giving money gives the organization the flexibility to use it for multiple types of aid.
If you find a site that looks fraudulent report it to the National Fraud Information CenterDon’t be afraid to give and help those who need it most, but be careful when doing so. You want to make sure that your donations get to the victims of this tragedy.