Give to real Haiti relief, not to scammers
Friday, January 15, 2010
With the recent earthquake in Haiti, many people are eager to contribute money to help the hard-hit country. Unfortunately, history has shown us that there are unscrupulous people out there who will do anything to make money. Past catastrophes such as Hurricane Katrina and the Pacific Ocean tsunamis spawned scams that collected money that never reached the victims. Similar scams are likely following Tuesday's devastating earthquake in Haiti.
Attorney General Roy Cooper encourages North Carolinians to give generously to relief efforts for Haiti but to watch for charity scams. If you come across a potential scam, you can report it to the Attorney General’s office by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or by filing a complaint.
To avoid scams and make sure your donations go to legitimate charities:
- Don’t respond to unsolicited emails and text messages asking you to donate. Even if the message looks legitimate, it could be an example of phishing – when scammers use the names and logos of real organizations to try to steal your money. The messages may include links to copycat websites of legitimate charities to try to trick donors. If you want to donate, contact the charity at a website or phone number you know to be valid.
- Watch out for pushy telemarketers. Telemarketers that refuse to answer your questions, offer to pick up your donation or pressure you for a credit card number are usually up to no good. Also, some telemarketers keep up to 90 percent of the money they give to charities. Your money will go further if you give directly to the organization, not to hired fundraisers.
- Don’t give cash. Avoid giving cash gifts that can be lost or stolen. For security and tax record purposes, it’s best to pay by check. Be sure that checks are made out to the charity, not the fundraiser.
- Protect your personal information. Never give your credit card or bank account number to someone you don’t know who calls you, and don’t share personal financial information by email or text message. If you donate online, use a secure website. Look for a lock icon and a web address that starts with “https”.
- Check out charities before you give. Visit www.give.org to see if national charities meet the standards set by the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, and www.charitywatch.org for ratings of charities by the American Institute of Philanthropy. For detailed financial information about a charity, contact the NC Secretary of State’s office at (888) 830-4989 or visit www.guidestar.org.