The FBI has issued a reminder to Internet users to be cautious of online apppeals for financial assistance in the wake of the Haitian earthquake. It seems almost unthinkable that someone would use such an awful tragedy for their own personal gain, but past disasters have prompted inviduals with criminal intent to solicit contributions while posing as a charity. The FBI recommends the following:
* Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming e-mails, including clicking links contained within those messages.
* Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as surviving victims or officials asking for donations via e-mail or social networking sites.
* 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.
* 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.
* 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.
For more information, go to our Fraud Unit's page.
Don't be discouraged, though, because there are plenty of real charities doing amazing work in Haiti right now who could use your assistance. The Kansas City Star has a good piece on how to help those in Haiti through legitimate organizations.
Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.