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Haiti Disaster Scam Warning

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FBI Haiti scam warningsFBI scam warnings are in effect following reports of unscrupulous companies and individuals taking advantage of the Haiti earthquake tragedy via the Internet. Similarly, social-networking sites have become a breeding ground for rumors and false information.

Official U.S. government donation advisories have come from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), which have posted advisories on donating your money wisely.

Helpful tips include:

  • Donate to recognized charities that you have given to before.
  • Watch out for those that have sprung up overnight. They may be well-meaning, but lack the infrastructure to provide assistance.
  • Be wary of charities with names that sound like familiar or nationally known organizations.
  • Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming emails, and do not click on links contained within those messages.
  • Be cautious of emails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files because the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
  • Give directly to the charity, not the solicitors for the charity. Solicitors take a portion of the proceeds to cover their costs, which leaves less for victim assistance.
  • Do not give out personal or financial information – including your Social Security number or credit card and bank account numbers – to anyone who solicits a contribution from you.
  • Be aware of charities that ask you to wire money through services like Western Union.
  • Investigate charities through the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance at www.give.org. Other helpful resources are Foundation Center and Charity Navigator
  • Don’t give or send cash. For security and tax record purposes, contribute by check or credit card. Write the official name of the charity on your check.
  • Ask for identification if you’re approached in person. Many states require paid fund-raisers to identify themselves as such and to name the charity for which they are soliciting.

For more information, visit the FTC’s Charity Fraud page, the FTC Charity Checklist, and the FBI’s Haitian Earthquake Fraud Alert.

By Sarika Chawla for PeterGreenberg.com.

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