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Phony charities may scam Haiti donation funds

January 13, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Consumer Specialist Ric Romero helps you make sure your charitable donations goes where it's really needed.Many legitimate charities need your help assisting the victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

But just like when any disaster happens, you can expect scam artists to come out of the woodwork.

Consumer Specialist Ric Romero helps you make sure your money goes where it's really needed.

It's amazing how quickly these scam artists can get up and running after a disaster. The immediacy of the internet is one reason for that. Another is the fact that most of these scams are very similar and they simply change the name of the disaster.

Not long after the tsunami devastated South Asia in 2004, there were numerous complaints of charity scams carried out in several ways.

The same was true after our own destructive fires last year.

It doesn't matter the disaster. Scam artists look at it as a time to prey, and I don't mean in a religious way.

Americans want to help the earthquake victims in Haiti, but right now is the time to be patient with your impulse donations. Scams are one reason why. And another is that Haiti is not yet prepared to take donations. So experts believe you should wait, and when you do donate, make sure it's to aid organizations that know Haiti, understand the needs of Haitians and have well-organized systems for actually delivering that aid.

The Red Cross comes to mind, and they have already committed over $1 million in supplies to the Haiti earthquake victims.

Regarding the scams targeting Haiti, the FBI is reporting they have already received a handful of complaints about Web sites that have been set up and could be fraudulent.

One example of an Internet scam plays on your emotions directly. The scammer will send out a personal e-mail from an individual in Haiti asking for help or they will try to direct you to a Web site that is really just a front for a phony charity. No examples have been seen yet, but they will pop up, so be aware.