Haiti earthquake scams began right after the disaster -
ensure you don't get taken
As with every recent natural disaster, Haiti earthquake scams started almost immediately, and the scammers were out in full force within a couple of hours.
The FBI issued this Haitian Earthquake Relief Fraud Alert on the day of the earthquake.
Here are the main Haiti earthquake scams we're seeing or predicting -- and how to avoid them:
Charity relief scams:
People want to help the victims and scammers want a big piece of the action. Be very skeptical of all requests for aid, whether via email, social networking sites, phone calls, or face-to-face. Check out the charity carefully (see below), and never donate cash.
If you want to help, you can find a list of legitimate charities seeking donations for Haiti earthquake victims here.
And if you've seen messages all over the Internet that you can simply text to donate to the Red Cross Haitian Earthquake Relief, some of those messages are even true. In this article, our friend Anne Mitchell explains that you really can text the Word 'Haiti' to 90999 to donate $10 to Red Cross Haitian Earthquake Relief.
Phishing and Malware scams:
You'll likely receive a lot of spam that supposedly comes from relief organizations or the victims themselves. Don't click on any links within these emails since they probably are phishing attempts. Don't open any attached files (including supposed photos) since they usually contain malware. And don't give out any of your personal information.
People Search Scams:
Since so many people are missing, spam that offers to find loved ones who may be disaster victims for a fee are usually very effective for the scammers. Delete these emails -- these scammers will just steal your money and/or your identity; they won't even try to really help.
Variants of the Nigerian Scam:
These junk emails will relate to retrieving large amounts of money tied up in Haiti in the devastated areas. You'll be offered a percentage of millions of bogus dollars to help retrieve these fortunes. Delete these emails.
Sales of Unrelated Products:
We will see spam that tries to somehow tie sales of Viagra and other products to the earthquake. Delete these emails.
You can also find a lot more examples of the types of earthquake scams we'll see -- such as chain letters, investment scams, contractor scams, and more by checking out this article on Hurricane Katrina scams. We can unfortunately pretty much guarantee you'll see all these scams related to the Haiti earthquake as well.
The Most Important Things You Can Do To Avoid Getting Scammed:
Always use common sense.
Never respond to an email request for a donation.
Check to make sure any charity is legitimate before contributing. The Better Business Bureau has a very useful website for you to check out charities.
Do not open attachments (including supposed pictures of disaster areas) -- they likely contain viruses or other malware.
If you follow these tips, you can avoid becoming a victim of Haiti earthquake scams.