Scammers wasting no time capitalizing on Haiti quake

Scammers wasting no time capitalizing on Haiti quake »Play Video
Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue team personnel deployed by USAID load a cargo plane with several tons of supplies bound for Haiti, in Sterling, Va.
A major disaster like the earthquake in Haiti brings out the good in people wanting to help, but it also brings out the scammers looking to make a quick buck.

The Internet has already been flooded with postings on message boards, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter -- you name it -- asking for donations to help.

Many are legit, but some are not.

Rebecca Sherrell, the charities program manager in the Washington Secretary of State's office, says crooks come out of the woodwork during major disasters.

"They try and take advantage of people that want to help in these tragedies, so we ask donors to be very very careful and ask a lot of questions," she said.

A lot of the postings and e-mails soliciting donations ask people to send money via text message, but be sure the charity is legit.

Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and AT&T Wireless can donate by texting "Haiti" to 90999. You will get a confirmation message. If you reply "Yes," you will donate $10 to the Red Cross.

This is real, but you have be certain you're using the legitimate code: 90999.

You also need to be wary of phone calls or e-mails asking for money. If you get a call, ask these questions:

- Where are you located?

- Are you registered in Washington State?

- How will my donation be used?

- What percentage actually goes to help the quake victims?

"The solicitor should be very willing and take the time to answer any questions," Sherrell says. "Anything rushed or 'we've got to have it now' type of an attitude, to me that's a red flag and you probably don't want to follow up with a donation."

Also ask them to send you information. Even in an emergency situation like the earthquake in Haiti, a legitimate charity will be happy to do so.

At my house we have a rule of not giving money to phone solicitors. You just can't really tell who is on the other end of the line.

And if it's a paid solicitor, as much as 90 percent of your donated dollar could go to the telemarketing firm.

Same thing with e-mail donations. I never click on the donate link because I can't be sure it's not going to a phishing site or other scam service.

To play it safe I send a check directly to the charity or go online directly to the group's Web site.

For more information

http://www.bbb.org/us/charity/

http://www.sos.wa.gov/CHARITIES/Default.aspx