Katrina-Related Internet Fraud
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their Web site. Of course, I only assumed my contribution was being made to the Red Cross. I typed www.redcross.org directly into my browser window, and the site certainly appeared to be the site for the Red Cross.
Thus far, I have no information to the contrary. But after hearing about all the Katrina-related donation fraud -- phishing scams, virus attacks, bogus emails, etc. -- I paid a visit to my credit card site and logged in to make sure that the money I paid did, in fact, go to the Red Cross. The entry on my credit card indicated the following:
AM RED CROSS*DONATION 800-797-8022 DC
Call me paranoid, but to be absolutely certain, I called the 800 number and encountered a voice-response unit for the American Red Cross. At least, I believe it was a VRU for the American Red Cross. It sure sounded like them.
The point being, how do you know for certain that you're contributing to the actual concern? I can't tell you how you can know for sure, but I can suggest some ways you can avoid contributing to the lowly bottom feeders.
First, if you wish to make a contribution to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, go directly to the Web site of the charity you wish to contribute to. Do NOT respond to an email from the charity . The American Red Cross and other prominent charities are not soliciting contributions via email, and responding to such solicitations is a good way of sending your contribution precisely to a place where you have no desire for it to go.
Second, if you want to have even more confidence your contribution is reaching its intended destination, ask for the charity's nonprofit tax ID before making a donation, and check it against the IRS charities database.
Third, be wary of any site that has the name "Katrina" in the domain name. Many fraudsters were already registering Katrina-related domains before the storm even hit, with the express intention of preying on the generosity of charitable contributors.
Instead, check the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance Web site to get a list of charities providing relief assistance for victims of Hurricane Katrina. The site provides overviews of each charity's "stated purpose" and programs, and provides the correct URL for each.
Meanwhile, do your part to take a big bite out of Internet crime and put the bottom feeders where they belong. If you know of or suspect Katrina-related fraud online, report your complaint to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center. You can also report fraudulent activity here in the U.S. to the Federal Trade Commission.
A little bit of vigilance when making your contribution to Katrina disaster assistance can go a long way -- in terms of both giving you peace of mind and ensuring your money goes towards helping those whom you intended it to.