Haiti Earthquake Leads to Charity Scams

In the aftermath of the devastating Haiti earthquake, an unfortunate number of charity scams have appeared

No one wants to think of a tragedy like the Haiti earthquake in conjunction with charity scams, but unfortunately there are a lot of people out there willing to make a buck any way they can. A charity scam provides the perfect opportunity to rip people off. Many individuals who are very wary when it comes to 'get rich quick' schemes are more than willing to open their wallets without question to help other people.

Recognizing charity scams

Obviously, charity scams takes advantage of your willingness to help others. But beware: just about anyone can solicit money to help the Haiti earthquake, or Russian orphans, or Middle Eastern war victims. And while it might feel selfish to hold back, you want to be sure that you're helping the people who really need help -- not a bunch of identity thieves.

How can you recognize a charity scam? There are a couple of dead giveaways:

1. The appeal comes in the form of email, especially from an unknown sender

Unless you're actually on the mailing list for an organization like The Red Cross, you're very unlikely to receive emails soliciting donations. And if you do and you do want to make a donation, go directly to the charity website (or phone them by looking up the number). Do not go through emailed links or the phone number included. While you're at it, you may want to mention the email and confirm that it was indeed from the organization.

2. The appeal comes from a charity group you've never heard of

Sure, there are probably a lot of charity groups you don't know about. But if you've never heard of them, there's always a possibility that they don't exist. Before donating money anywhere, you should check them out and make sure it's actually a charity.

Avoiding a charity scam

With the Haiti earthquake so fresh, people are generous. That doesn't mean you shouldn't use your common sense. It only takes moments to look up any charity, even a genuine one, on the Internet and make sure that they're on the level and using their money responsibly.

Also, use the Internet to familiarize yourself with all the current scams circulating, including the recent addition of the Haitian earthquake charity scam.

If you really want to help out with the Haiti earthquake, the safest route is to directly donate to one of the well-known charities operating overseas, such as Red Cross emergency relief. By doing so, you guarantee that your generosity helps Haiti earthquake victims instead of lining the pockets of identity thieves.

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