We encourage you to do whatever you can to support those in dire need in Haiti, as Carly Z wrote about in her Gear Diary’s Three Ways You Can Help Haiti. HOWEVER, as is sadly the case too often, it seems that scammers are able to mobilize even quicker than relief workers. CNN is reporting that the FBI has issued a warning about scams purporting to bring aid to Haiti actually just filling the pockets of unscrupulous characters.
Here are some tips from the FBI, Scam.Busters and the Better Business Bureau on how to make sure your money goes to people in need.
• Be skeptical if someone e-mails you or contacts you through social networking sites claiming to be a quake victim or a government or charity official and asks for donations, the FBI says. Also, the agency says, do not click on any links within those e-mails. And do not click on attached files labeled photos or video because they may contain viruses.
• It’s OK to be suspicious. Ask for the name, phone number and address of the charity. The American Institute of Philanthropy says honest charities encourage you to know about them and respond to your questions. Also, request that they put the information in writing.
• However, do not give them your personal or financial information, because that may leave you vulnerable to identity theft.
• Don’t be misled by a charity name that “sort of sounds familiar.” Scammers may change one word in the title to trick you.
• Ask if the charity is registered with any organization and get the registration number. Check for the organization on Web sites such as the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, or Charity Navigator.org.
• Ask what percentage of the money you give actually reaches the needy. You also can designate how your donation is to be used.
• Don’t ever donate cash. Make the check out to the name of the charity, not the person asking for money. And get a receipt with the name of the charity on it. Do NOT give your credit card number to telemarketers or use it on a Web site of a charity you have not checked out.
• If the person seeking your donation asks you to give more, that may be a sign that something is wrong. Legitimate charities are grateful, not demanding.
So remember – give as much as you can, but always keep your brain engaged and your eyes open. CNN also points to the ScamBusters site as a valuable resource to make sure your money goes where you are intending.