FBI warns of Haitian aid scammers


Humanitarian aid is loaded onto a plane at the Torrejon military airbase in Madrid, Spain, Monday Jan. 18, 2010. Aid supplies are being sent from Spain as part of the massive international effort to alleviate the effects of the recent earthquake in Haiti.

Paul White/The Associated Press
Published: Monday, January 18, 2010 at 8:33 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 18, 2010 at 8:33 a.m.

The scam: It's a sign of our corrupt times that within hours of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, the FBI came out with a reminder to consumers about the possibility of scammers abusing your desire to help the stricken Haitians.

How it works: It could be as simple as an unscrupulous crook posing as a charity. In other cases, a spammer might send an e-mail with a link asking generous people to click to make a donation. That link could expose your bank account or credit card access to thieves.

What to do: According to the FBI:

Do not respond to any unsolicited e-mails.

Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as surviving victims or officials asking for donations.

Verify the legitimacy of nonprofit organizations before giving. (There are lots of good ones, including the American Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders and Partners In Health.)

Be cautious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files.

Make contributions directly to known organizations.

Don't give your personal information to anyone who solicits contributions.

If you witness Haitian scams, contact the FBI's Philadelphia office at (215) 418-4000 or Philadelphia.complaints@ic.fbi.gov.

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