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 http://www.redcross.org/. 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.