Local

Watch Out For Scammers Exploiting Haiti Earthquake

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Many in the Valley are already trying to help earthquake victims. Now the FBI and Better Business Bureau warn of scams designed to take advantage of your generosity.

Heartbreaking images from Haiti have compelled many people to want to help in any way possible, but they've also opened the door to con artists looking to prey on that kindness.

Doug Broten said, "A lot of times you'll have scammers that will try to take advantage and just take the money and keep it, other times well-meaning organizations, it could be a church or other organization, say we're gonna help in Haiti and we'll try to start pulling something together."

Broten, the president of the Central California Better Business Bureau, said sometimes even those groups with good intentions don't have the means to get donations to the source. He said there's one simple step that can assure your money really goes directly to the relief effort.

"What we recommend always to do in a disaster is to give to the organizations that already have a system in place to be able to deal with the disaster, the Red Cross is a perfect one," said Broten.

The Red Cross already has staff members on the ground in Haiti who were actually there working on an aids project when the earthquake struck. They are all okay, and they've even sent pictures that are being used to help assess exactly what's needed there. The Central Valley branch has not been asked to send volunteers yet, but it is accepting monetary donations.

Karen Chisum said, "So if you do want to make an impact, make a donation, and that money, 100% of it will go to the relief efforts."

And now the Red Cross has made it even easier to donate ... just text the word "Haiti" to 90999 to send the agency a ten dollar donation that will be added to your cell phone bill.

You can also call the agency directly by calling 1-800-733-2767.

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The FBI today 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.

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(Copyright ©2014 KFSN-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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Tags:
haiti, earthquake, local, sara sandrik
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