New Warning on Haiti Earthquake Relief Efforts: How to Give Safely

by Erin on January 14th, 2010 in Security Alert, Security Tips.

The Internet has not only changed how we get our news, it has also changed how quickly and effectively we can respond to it. We’ve seen this with disaster-relief efforts in the past, and we’re seeing it again in the aftermath of the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that recently hit Haiti.

The good news: online networks like Twitter and Facebook are mobilizing efforts to raise aid for Haiti earthquake victims.

The bad news: scammers are mobilizing, too. When disasters strike, cyber criminals know that they can take advantage of the feeling of good will that follows such events. And they spring into action.

In fact, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued a new public warning on fraud related to Haitian earthquake relief efforts, asking people to ‘apply a critical eye’ before responding to appeals for donations received through e-mail and social networking sites.

What’s especially malicious about these types of scams? Not only are the cyber criminals attempting to get hold of your money but, at the same time, they're siphoning funds meant to go towards aiding worthy organizations.

To avoid scams and make sure that your money goes to its intended recipient, the FBI has put together guidelines to follow before making donations, including the following:

  • Don’t respond to unsolicited e-mail, and don’t click on links in these messages.
  • Be especially cautious if you’re approached for donations by individuals claiming to be surviving victims or officials – you’ll need to keep an eye out in your inbox as well as on networking sites.
  • Confirm the organization’s existence and non-profit status before donating. Don’t blindly follow purported links to an organization’s website.
  • Don’t open e-mail attachments claiming to be pictures of disaster areas (these may contain malware).
  • To make sure that your money goes to the intended cause, give directly to the source. Don’t rely on another individual or organization to make a donation on your behalf.
  • Don’t give personal or financial details to anyone who solicits contributions.