Sad But True: Beware of Haiti Donation Scams

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Many Americans are donating money to relief efforts in Haiti, but the government is warning people to be careful of potential scams.

The FBI said Thursday that consumers should be wary of unsolicited appeals to help those affected by the earthquake.  Security experts say people shouldn't be discouraged from donating, but should follow these tips when determining where to give:

  • Don't click on links or attachments contained within aid-related spam, even if they claim to contain pictures of the tragedy. The attachments may be viruses.
  • Never respond to unsolicited email or click on links in those messages.
  • Be skeptical of people asking for money who say they are victims of the tragedy.
  • Be extremely skeptical of Web sites that ask for detailed personal information, such as your Social Security number, birthdate or bank account information and pin.
  • Check out the organization at sites for the Better Business Bureau, the Foundation Center or Charity Navigator.

Potential fraud sites have already surfaced. Internet security expert Joel Esler said more than 400 Internet addresses related to Haiti have been registered since Monday's devastating quake.

Many of the sites are legitimate and forward visitors to outside charities. But some are linked to fraudulent sites that spread viruses and malicious software, Esler added.

The FBI urged those wanting to donate to stick with sites and charities they are familiar with. The warnings, however, should not discourage people from giving. Consumers are just asked to be cautious and responsible.

For more advice on avoiding charity scams, visit these special pages by the Better Business Bureau and the FBI.

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