Consumer beware! Watch out for Haiti disaster scam artists!

Consumer beware! Watch out for Haiti disaster scam artists!


by Edgar Linares
Idaho's NewsChannel 7


Posted on January 14, 2010 at 2:38 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 15 at 9:12 AM


BOISE -- Times like these often bring out the best in people, but it can also bring out the worst.

We spoke with the president of the Idaho Better Business Bureau, Dale Dixon.

He gave us some warning signs to look for before donating.

Often times scam artist use disasters like these to strike.

They set up bogus Web sites or use texting to take your money.

If you're not careful, you could lose your cash and end up not helping any one in need.

"It's hard to imagine, someone wanting to take advantage of such a dire situation like what is going on in Haiti," said Dixon.
But it does happen and the warnings are out there. Dixon says often times these charities can be hard to spot. They set up false Web sites that look legitimate.

"So they have set up opportunities for us to give, to give right into their pockets," said Dixon.

The FBI said back in 2005 that they were suspicious of Web sites soliciting money after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast.  According to, scams were showing up within an hour of the 2001 World Trade Center attacks.

"With every single natural disaster you've had in the past, there has always been a scam artist looking to take advantage of the situation, so we fully expect that to be taking place with the Haiti earthquake," said Dixon.
Be wary of people contacting you to give. Often scammers use e-mails or send a text message urging you to give right away.  Dixon says this should be a big red flag.

"This idea of texting to give through a charity raises a number of issues. Number one it's immediate so you're not able to do research. We definitely recommend you do the research," said Dixon.

One way to research is by using the BBB's Web site. You simply type in your zip code and click on "check out a businesses or charity," then type in the name of the organization.

"The BBB has developed 20 standards for charities, universal in nature.  It's a check list really, so you know the charity is spending your hard earned money wisely," said Dixon.

Here are few more things the BBB says to watch out for when donating.

- Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will assist victims.

- Be cautious when giving online, especially in response to spams or e-mails.

- Find our if the charity has a on-the-ground presence at the impacted area.

- Avoid the middleman.  Some charities raise money to pass along to other organizations.  You might just want to donate to them directly.