FBI & BBB warn of Haiti earthquake scams

3:58 PM, Jan 18, 2010   |    comments
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Americans seeking information about family members in Haiti can call 1-888-407-4747 or 202-647-5225, set up by the U.S. Department of State. Due to heavy volume, some callers may receive a recording.


"Our embassy is still in the early stages of contacting American citizens through our Warden Network," the U.S. State Department said in a statement. "Communications are very difficult within Haiti at this time."


To help with relief efforts, text "HAITI" to "90999" and $10 will be given automatically to the Red Cross, charged to your cell phone bill.


The FBI has already received complaints of fraud, so officials suggest sticking with established organizations like the American Red Cross, AmeriCares and Doctors Without Borders. E-mail users should not respond to or click on links in unsolicited messages.


You can double-check on donations by visiting web sites like The Foundation Center or Charity Navigator to ensure your money is going where it is needed.


Disasters like the earthquake in Haiti can bring out the best and, unfortunately, the worst in people.  Both the FBI and the Better Business Bureau have issued warnings about scammers trying to take advantage of people's generosity during the crisis.

The FBI reminds people to take a critical eye and do their due digilence before giving anyone or any organizations money.

The FBI offers the following suggestions:

* Do not respond to any unsolicited incoming emails, including clicking links cotained within those messages

* Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as survivors or officials asking for donations via email or social networking sites

* Verify the legitimacy of nonprofit organizations by utilizing various internet-based resources that may assist in confirming the group's existence and its nonprofit status rather than following a purported link to the site

* Be cautious of emails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files.  Those files may actually contain viruses

* Make contributions directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf to ensure contributions are received and used for intended purposes

* Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions.  Providing that information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft

If you have received a suspicious email or been contacted by someone claiming to be a victim, contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at http://www.ic3.gov/.

The national Better Business Bureau also offers suggestions on avoiding fraudulent charities.   To read more, click here.

Search charitynavigator.org to check the legitimacy of a charitable organization.

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