It’s amazing how quickly Internet users have responded to the recent tragedy in Haiti. As usual on the Internet, what you see may not be what you get. Be sure to donate but do it carefully.
It didn’t take long. Days after the Haitian earthquake, donation scams hit the Internet.
It’s hard for some of us to believe that a human being would be so devil-like, but just check your e-mail. It’s scam-a-rama on Haiti, hitting us when we’re conditioned to donate by reflex instead of reality.
The emergency requests come via new sources including Facebook, Twitter, phone texting, wherever people communicate. Some are direct requests by individuals for cash. How many Haitians have computers and spam capability and a P.O. box in New York?
A classic is a takeoff on the Nigerian Letter. A Haitian banker has rescued his bank vault and needs a place to deposit the money.
Others can be fake charities, some under the guise of churches or international organizations.
Don’t let the scammers scare you off donating. Just be careful.
Use your mouse not your heart before deciding to donate. Any link name in a post can be disguised. Put your mouse on it and right click. That displays the true address of the link, and it might not be the Red Cross.
Perhaps the trickiest scam is the redirected Internet address. You see a post, it has an address that looks bona fide. It leads to the scammer. Best security is to use only addresses found by your search engine.
Donating at the charity’s Web site can be more secure. Still, this can be dangerous if you use a posted link. It’s easy for scammers to copy a site and post it, changing the donor links to themselves.
The Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org offers free charity checks. Another tip is the age of the Web site. If it’s a few days old, beware. You can discover that at www.archive.org.
Never send cash. A check made out to the charity is probably safest. A credit-card number will be welcomed by scammers as they can claim any amount and then use it later.
A new, relatively secure way to donate is by phone texting. Texting "Haiti” to 90999 will send $10 to the Red Cross, payable on your phone bill. The number has raised more than $25 million. Be careful. The Federal Trade Commission warns there may be phonies out there.
If the request is for a money order, chances are good it’s a scam. Real charities never request money orders.
It’s amazing how quickly Internet users have responded to the tragedy. As usual on the Internet, what you see may not be what you get. Be sure to donate but do it carefully.