Tag Archives: Haiti Earthquake

Chile Earthquake Scams: yet another preemptive strike.

I don’t think you’d need to be a rocket surgeon to guess that Chile Earthquake Scams are already well underway. I once posed the hypothetical, “How long does it take a crook to turn something into a scam, four minutes?”

Turns out I wasn’t giving the con artists enough credit. My new estimate is 30 seconds.

The same rules apply here as when dealing with possible Haiti Earthquake Scams. Be extremely wary of unsolicited charity donations. The best way to help is to contact your favorite organization first and turn down all other requests.

There is a short article on the topic at Scambusters that identifies a couple additional threats beyond fake charities, and both involve malware.

Basically, if a stranger sends you alleged photos of the earthquake damage, do not open these attachments because they are infected with a virus. In fact, don’t even open the message at all. There is plenty of footage coming in through official news sources.

Also, beware of fake news stories that come up in search engines. These can lead to websites that are infected with malware as well. According to the Scambusters article, these sites were up within hours of the earthquake. Just go directly to your favorite news source’s website and get your information from there. Many will even have a list of trustworthy resources if you want to donate to relief efforts.

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.

Haiti Earthquake Scams: another preemptive strike.

I haven’t seen any specific scams of this type yet, so think of this as one of those “you know it’s going to happen, so be prepared” moments: The FBI is already warning consumers about possible Haiti Earthquake Scams. Le sigh.

Here’s the deal—if you get an unsolicited (you didn’t request it) email requesting donations for victims of the recent Haitian earthquake, or if someone contacts you via social networks (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc.) asking for help, just don’t respond. The odds that it is a scam are just too high to risk it.

If you are approached by a charity you believe is legitimate, ask lots of questions. If they’re honest, they won’t mind providing information. However, I still wouldn’t donate to these requests, either.

If you really want to help, contact an organization you already know and trust, and donate without them asking you first. Make sure you’ve got the name of the organization correct before you act—scam charities sometimes change one small word in the name of a well-known charity in an attempt to confuse people.

There is a long list of organizations involved in relief efforts here, from MSNBC. I’m not familiar with most of these, and I’m not endorsing any one in particular or vouching for what they do.

We are in an age where every natural disaster, every new government action and every new technology is immediately assimilated by criminals looking for easy money. If you want to help out in Haiti, contact your favorite charity today. Don’t wait for someone to ask.