Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Beware of phony earthquake relief appeals

The tragedy in Haiti has resulted in an outpouring of sympathy and charitable giving to the victims of the earthquake. Unfortunately, not every request for assistance is coming from a reputable relief organization. Some solicitations are from scam artists.

Here are some tips from Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau for people who want to make donations:
*Avoid newly formed charities and give to an established charity that has worked in Haiti. Find a charity with a proven track record of success in providing disaster relief and one that has worked in Haiti. You can find a list of highly-rated charities on Charity Navigator’s Web site. You can also research charities on the Web sites of these organizations: Better Business Bureau, American Institute of Philanthropy and Guidestar.

*Do not give to the Haitian government. Haiti is known to be a corrupt country.

*Designate your donation. With disaster related giving, you should specify that you want your donation used only to respond to this particular crisis, rather than letting the charity spend the money as it sees fit.

*Be leery of people contacting you via e-mail claiming to be a victim. Unless you personally know someone in Haiti, anyone alleging to be in this situation is most likely part of a scam.

*Avoid telemarketers. Hang up the phone, do your homework and give directly to a charity.

*Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups. Some charities may be raising money to pass along to relief organizations. If so, you may want to consider “avoiding the middleman” and give directly to charities that have a presence in the region.