Unfortunately, disasters bring out not only the best in people, but also the worst. There are countless stories of fake relief organizations setting up shop after disasters. They solicit money from good people and prey upon the goodwill of honest citizens, essentially stealing money from the people who need it most. The FBI offers the following set of guidelines when considering donating to charities online:
- Do not respond to any unsolicited (SPAM) incoming emails.
- Be skeptical of individuals claiming to be surviving victims or foreign government officials asking for help in placing large sums of money in overseas bank accounts.
- To ensure that contributions to U.S. based non-profit organizations are used for intended purposes, go directly to recognized charities and aid organizations websites, as opposed to following a link to another site.
- Attempt to verify the legitimacy of non-profit organizations by utilizing various Internet based resources which may assist in confirming the existence of the organization as well as its non-profit status.
- Be leery of emails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from know senders.
I would add one more: consult your Alexa Toolbar before making a contribution. Your toolbar will tell you who owns the site, how long it has been online, how many sites link to it and more.
Our thoughts are with the victims of Katrina and their families.