The Haitian earthquake has been front page for the past week. Radio, TV, and social media have carried the stories and pictures of the tragedy until the pictures of the children on the side of the road haunt our dreams. But the world responded. The statistics on how much money has been raised so far by twitter alone is amazing. People are texting hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations as well as millions more dollars being sent by snail mail.
Along with the gruesome pictures of the victims, the requests for donations seem endless. We all want to donate, but how can you avoid being ripped off by unscrupulous charity fraud scam artists trying to take advantage of anyone they can, through any way they can? It is an unfortunate aspect of human nature, but after a natural disaster such as the Haitian Earthquake, there are some people that immediately set out to con you in order to enrich themselves. How then can you protect yourself from these people if you want to contribute after a natural disaster?
Analyze your emails.
You may receive legitimate emails from charities requesting donations for Haitian relief. However, there is also a very good chance that they are fake, no matter how "officia" they look. Before you go sending off your hard earned money, take the time to check it out. Never click on a link within the email that takes you to the organization's "alleged" website as many scammers have sophisticated websites that look very legitimate. Do a simple Google search to investigate the organization. Check with your local BBB.
Some scammers are not looking for money. Rather, they just want to collect your private information for later use in an identity theft. Never give out your personal or financial information to anyone soliciting you for donations.
But the email looks so real, and it says it is from the Red Cross. It must be legitimate, right? While again, it very well may be legitimate. Still, in your haste to help, do not immediately click on the “donate” money button. In fact, do not click on any links in the email until you are absolutely sure it is from who it says it is. Probably, the best advice is not to even open an email from someone you do not know and you may save yourself much grief.
Donate directly to a charity.
We all want to help people in need but the safest way for you to do that is to make a donation directly to the charity by making the initial contact yourself. Call the local office of the charity you want to donate to and ask them the best way. Do not let the scam artists take advantage of your good will. It is the Haitian children who need your money, not some made up charity.