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Haiti Needs Help, Swindlers on Standby

by Danielle Gerson
Jan 15, 2010

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If you've checked your Twitter account today, you've probably noticed that amongst the most popular tweets are "Help Haiti" and "Red Cross." But with so many ways to donate in the mix—text donations, e-mail contributions or the good old fashion check in the mail—which are safe, and which are scams?

Right after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, there was a storm of scams that consumed between $300,000 and $400,000 of Red Cross donations. Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales had to establish the Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force in response to the scandals.

In an attempt to avoid these issues in the wake of Tuesday's earthquake in Haiti several warnings have been announced. And First Lady, Michelle Obama, recently offered a tech-savvy and expedient way to donate via text in this video:

But if you choose to go another route, make sure the charity adheres to the Standards for Charity Accountability listed on The Better Business Bureau (BBB) Web site. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has also released guidelines to avoid these fraudulent charities, which include:

- 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.

- 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.

The organization's press release details more ways to ensure a successful contribution. And before you refer to your 140-characters-or-less social networking site for charitable organizations, check with the BBB or FBI, and make sure it's legit.

Tell Me More Intern Danielle Gerson is a recent graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, where she earned an undergraduate degree in Communications and Public and Professional Writing.

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