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Lessons and stories from the front lines of fighting identity theft.


In this time of need, beware of Haiti charity scams

Jan 18

Haiti Pic

We’re seeing it all over the news and on the Internet, images of homeless people along dirt roads looking for loved ones and hundreds of crumpled buildings with people scouring through debris.  In this time of great need, you may be asking yourself, “What can I do to help victims that have been affected by the devastating earthquake that hit the country of Haiti on Tuesday, January 12, 2010?” The simple answer would be to donate money to a charity that is helping the cause.

However, less than 24 hours after the devastating earthquake hit Haiti, the FBI received complaints of charity fraud.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation has issued a warning to people giving to a charity to watch out for email and telemarketing scams.  On January 13, 2010, a FBI press release announced, “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.”

Here are helpful tips the FBI would like people to adhere to when giving to a charity:

1. Do not respond to any unsolicited emails.

2. Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as surviving victims or officials asking for donations.

3. Verify the legitimacy of nonprofit organizations.

4. Be cautious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files because the files may contain viruses.

5. Make contributions directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf.

6. Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions.

A reputable organization to look into helping the cause is the Red Cross.  Donations can be made to the International Relief Fund by calling 1-800-REDCROSS or online at  Donors can also text “HAITI” to “90999” and a donation of 10 dollars will automatically be added to their cell phone bill and go toward relief efforts.

8 Comments Add your comment

  1. Jennifer
    Jan 18 at 14:30

    Thanks for talking about safe ways to give!


  2. Trevor
    Jan 18 at 17:21

    I can’t believe that shallow people would take advantage of a situation like this to make a quick buck. Really sad!! After reading this, I just texted my donation to the Red Cross.


  3. jen
    Jan 18 at 17:28

    That’s awful people would take this opportunity to defraud people. I’m so glad you brought that up because I didn’t even consider it!


  4. Fred S.
    Jan 18 at 17:36

    Thanks. I texted in my donation, too… Quick correction, btw: in your last paragraph, people should text “HAITI” (not “HAIT”) – just a typo in your paragraph, but important to note so that people don’t get confused.

    The Red Cross then sends back a text, and you have to reply with a “YES” to that text in order for the donation to be made. So, it’s not just one text, but two texts to send to complete the process – this is a smart verification process they use.


  5. Viviana
    Jan 19 at 12:21

    When I 1st heard about being able to donate this quickly and easily to the Red Cross efforts in Haiti I was so excited. The process was super easy. Then I noticed all the Tweets going around and thought, hmmm…what if it were a scam?! Thanks for posting the cautionary tips.


  6. ID-Alvin
    Jan 19 at 16:06

    Hello Viviana! You are very welcome and we appreciate your feedback. We like to educate the public on the various identity thefts that occurs on a daily basis. We hope you share this information with your family and friends.


  7. Amanda
    Jan 22 at 16:59

    At a time like this, people are emotionally driven to offer their financial assistance. This is a great article to take those extra steps of precaution prior to sending money. The Red Cross was a quick, simple way to provide support.


  8. ID-Alvin
    Jan 22 at 19:11

    Hello Amanda! Thanks for your feedback and we appreciate that you got some insight from this entry. I have sent my donation via text to the Red Cross.


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