Haitian Earthquake Scams: How to Identify a Haiti Earthquake Relief Scam

Haiti Earthquake Relief Scams - Fake Agencies, Donation Frauds and Phony Relief Organizations

Is your donation going to help a Haitian, or a scammer?

In the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake, the FBI issued a reminder that scammers are busy operating fake relief organizations. See below for an example of a Haitian Earthquake Relief Scam email.

The FBI recommends being skeptical about requests for donations and use due diligence before responding to those requests. Before making a donation of any kind, consumers should follow these guidelines:

  • Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming e-mails, including clicking links contained within those messages (do not click on links in the emails).
  • Be skeptical of individuals passing themselves off as surviving victims or as officials asking for donations via e-mail or social networking sites (like Facebook, MySpace, etc.). Be skeptical of individuals who approach you in person, on phone, or via e-mail asking for money. Some may pose as an official or represent a charity.
  • 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.
    The American Institute of Philanthropy recently published their list of top Haiti relief organizations, AIP, a leading charity watchdog that issues letter grade (A+ to F) ratings of nonprofit groups, identifies the following charities, which are providing aid to the victims that receive an "A" or "B" grade based on the portion of their budget going to program services and their fundraising efficiency. 
    Charity Navigator evaluates charities with a four-star rating system.
    The BBB at www.bbb.org also accredits charities based on fund-raising practices and how the charities spend the funds.
  • Be cautious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files because the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
  • 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. Scammers can put up a website and open a PayPal account overnight, so be wary of donating on sites you don't recognize. Also remember that most nonprofit groups' Websites end in .org rather than .com. Don't respond to unsolicited e-mails, and don't click links or open attachments from people you don't know since they may contain computer viruses.
  • Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions: Providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.
  • Don't ever donate cash. Make the check out to the name of the charity, not the person asking for money. And get a receipt with the name of the charity on it. Do NOT give your credit card number to telemarketers or use it on a Web site of a charity you have not checked out.
  • Watch out for emails with subject ines like these. According to Symnantec (Norton) subject lines found in scam emails below, we observe that some of them are imitating the subject lines of legitimate emails requesting for donations:

    Financial contributions to the British Red Cross
    Please Reply.
    Haiti Earthquake: HELP HAITI
    Urgent response:Help haiti
    RED CROSS EARTHQUAKE APPEAL- DONATE NOW!
    Donate to Haiti today
    Please give what you can today to help thousands of people there in desperate need humanitarian assistance
    Come up and make a difference to help the poor people of Haiti. Urgent Mail....
    Desperately Needed Aids

How to report a possible Haiti Earthquake Relief scam or fake email

Anyone who has received an e-mail referencing the above information or anyone who may have been a victim of this or a similar incident should notify the IC3 via www.ic3.gov (if the scam was online) or with the National Fraud Information Center if the scam was over the phone or online.

More news about the Haitian disaster

More news about Haiti can be found at CNN on their Haiti Coverage pages, including these articles:

Think twice about adopting.  According to a UNICEF spokesman, it is not uncommon for Haitian parents to put their children in orphanages temporarily. This means knowing who is truly an orphan and who isn't requires great attention to detail and documents. If you want to adopt, work through a credible adoption agency, and be patient.

How does the scam work and an example

The scammer hopes to con you into sending money for various "fees" to free the fortune.  If you would like a step by step explanation of how this type of "Advance Fee Fraud" works, click here!

See a sample of this scam email below:


EXAMPLE OF A HAITIAN EARTHQUAKE RELIEF FRAUD EMAIL

The British Red Cross Society
British Red Cross
UK Office
44 Moorfields
London EC2Y 9AL

MAKE YOUR DONATIONS NOW

=====================

Dear reader,

A devastating earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale struck Haiti on 12 January 2010 sending the Haitian Capital Port-Au-Prince into chaos, killing hundreds and affecting thousands more. Please give what you can today to help thousands of people there in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.

Relief aid workers from the Red Cross have already been arriving at the Haitian capital with relief materials.

Donations have been grouped into two cartegories:

1: Group A (250 British Pounds to 1,000 British Pounds
2: Group B (1,000 British Pounds and above)

Donations are to be made payable immediately via WESTERN UNION MONEY TRANSFER immediately and directly to our donations accounts liason officer as RECEIVER'S name:

DONATIONS ACCOUNT LIASON OFFICER:
LOCATION: 44 Moorfields, London EC2Y 9AL

Please provide us via return email the following informations below as they appear on the Western Union Money Transfer slip;

1. Name and Address of Sender
2. Exact Amount Sent ***
3. MTCN ***

NOTE: At British Red Cross we are committed to protecting your privacy as a STANDARD practice. We will not share your information unless you have previously indicated that you are happy for us to do so.

Hope to receive your donations soon as thousands need your help.

Please send return email with donations details to

Yours Sincerely,

For and on behalf of The British Red Cross Society

 


How to Report a Fraudulent Organization, Agency or Business Proposal

In the United States contact:

U.S. Secret Service
Financial Crimes Division
1800 G Street, NW
Room 942
Washington, DC 20223

Phone: (202) 4355850

Fax: (202) 4355031

Or contact the local U.S. Secret Service Field Office.

Overseas

Contact the Foreign Commercial Service (FSC) at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If there is no FCS office, contact the American Citizens Services Unit of the Consular Section or the Regional Security Office.

For a comprehensive list of national and international agencies to report scams, see this page.

 


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