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Beware of scammers taking advantage of Haiti quake

by Maggie O'Mara

Bio | Email | Follow: @maggiektvb7


Posted on January 14, 2010 at 8:00 AM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 7:44 AM

We're all devastated by the video and pictures out of Haiti. There is so much suffering and destruction! But before you donate to a cause - make sure it's legitimate. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there looking to make money off this tragedy.

This morning on "Today's Morning News" - we talked to local Better Business Bureau President Dale Dixon about what people should watch out for BEFORE donating to just any organization out there.

Here are the BBB's recommendations: 

Rely on expert opinion when it comes to evaluating a charity:
Be cautious relying on bloggers or other websites, as they might not have fully researched the listed relief organizations. The public can go to to research charities and relief organizations to verify that they are accredited by the BBB.

Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims:

Despite what an organization might claim, charities have fund raising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee. If a charity claims 100 percent of collected funds will be assisting earthquake victims, the truth is that the organization is still probably incurring fund raising and administrative expenses.

Be cautious when giving online:
Be cautious about online giving, especially in response to spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. In response to the tsunami disaster in 2004, there were concerns raised about many Web sites and new organizations that were created overnight allegedly to help victims.

Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas:
Unless the charity already has staff in the effected areas, it may be difficult to get new aid workers to quickly provide assistance. See if the charity's website clearly describes what they can do to address immediate needs. Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups.

The Idaho Chapter of the American Red Cross is making it safe and easy for you to donate to Haiti: 

*You can send a 10-dollar donation by texting "Haiti" to 90-999.
*You can also make a donation by phone by calling 1-800-REDCROSS.
*You can also donate online at