January 20, 2010 – Chicago, IL – As a second earthquake hit Haiti this morning, relief efforts to the country continue to be of the utmost importance. As many Americans are looking for ways to help by donating to charity, they are being inundated with different organizations looking to help Haitians. The Better Business Bureau warns consumers to watch out for fraudulent charities trying to scam donations from well-meaning Americans.
“It is sad that some people see an opportunity for fraud and identity theft in another person’s expression of charity,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “It is critical that the public take specific steps to fight identity thieves in order to ensure their donations go to legitimate charitable organizations.”
The Better Business Bureau reminds the public to do their due diligence before making contributions to anyone soliciting donations on behalf of Haitian victims. Solicitations can originate from e-mails, websites, door-to-door collections, mailings and telephone calls, and similar methods.
Before making any donation the BBB and the FBI recommend that consumers:
· Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) incoming e-mails, including clicking links contained within those messages.
· Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as surviving victims or officials asking for donations via e-mail or social networking sites.
· Beware of organizations with copy-cat names similar to but not exactly the same as those of reputable charities.
· Rather than following a purported link to a website, verify the legitimacy of non-profit organizations by utilizing various Internet-based resources that may assist in confirming the group's existence and its non-profit status such as the state’s Attorney General’s website.
· Be cautious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files because the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
· To ensure contributions are received and used for intended purposes, make contributions directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf.
· Do not be pressured into making contributions, as reputable charities do not use such tactics.
· Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions. Providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.
· Avoid cash donations if possible. Pay by debit or credit card, or write a check directly to the charity. Do not make checks payable to individuals.
· Review charities’ Reliability Reports for free on www.bbb.org to ensure they meet all 20 BBB charity standards. National charities providing Haiti earthquake relief that meet the 20 Wise Giving Alliance Standards for Charity Accountability are listed at http://www.bbb.org/us/haiti
If you believe you have been a victim of fraud from someone or an organization soliciting relief on behalf Haitian earthquake victims, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud at (866) 720-5721 or e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone who has received an e-mail soliciting donations or is aware of fraudulent charity websites claiming to be collecting for Haitian victims, please notify the IC3 via www.ic3.gov.