FBI warns would-be donors to be alert for scams

By Megan Greenwell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 14, 2010; A11

As American donations began flooding into Haiti on Wednesday, the FBI and charity watchdogs warned potential donors to be cautious about where they send their money.

Would-be donors should verify the legitimacy of groups seeking money and beware of spam attacks from people claiming to be raising money for earthquake relief efforts, the FBI said.

After a tsunami devastated Southeast Asia in 2004, many people lost money by donating to relief organizations that turned out to be fraudulent.

Specific tips from the FBI include:

-- Make contributions directly to known organizations, rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf, to ensure contributions are received and used for intended purposes.

-- Be skeptical of officials asking for donations via e-mail or social-networking sites.

-- Verify the legitimacy of nonprofit organizations, rather than following a purported link to the organization.

-- Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions: Providing such information could compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.

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