Haiti earthquake relief: texting to donate.

I think it’s pretty cool that technology has come to a point where you can now donate money to help victims of a natural disaster by texting a single word to a number (the charges show up on your cellular bill).

At the very least, it demonstrates that text messaging can be used for something beyond teenage cyberbullying and ZOMG-ing.

I know of two confirmed, legitimate ways to donate this way. The first is by texting HAITI to 90999. This number was set up by the American Red Cross, and will add $10 to your next bill.

The other is by texting YELE to 501501. This will donate $5 through Wyclef Jean’s Yéle Haiti Foundation. Jean is a native of Haiti, and he set up the Foundation in 2005.

These are the good guys.

However, you know there are going to be some people who try to turn a profit from this technology. It may not be as easy as setting up a fake website, but there are plenty of companies that are willing to do that which is skeevy, and are already set up with “text X to Y to get Z” services.

Most likely what will happen is a bunch of not-so-charitable charities will set up numbers that are similar to the real ones, and end up donating 1% of their income from the campaign.

You know those ads for ringtones that MTV is literally lousy with these days? I wouldn’t put it past some of those companies to set up a mostly-fake Haiti earthquake charity. They’ll probably sign you up for some $20/month “Worst Music in the Universe Ringtones” service while they’re at it.

Seriously, if you’re considering donating in this way, my first advice is to just use the two numbers listed above. Or you could skip the texting and donate online (is that the “old fashioned way” already?):

If you see a “text to donate” number that isn’t one of the two I mentioned above, be very cautious. Check it out before you do anything, and read the fine print carefully. Google exists. Use it.

And, seriously, if the word “ringtone” appears anywhere in the request or in the fine print, it’s one of those scummy companies (scumpanies?) whose commercials make MTV unwatchable. Well, that and the execrable programming.

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