A Consumer's Guide
In tough times, Americans have a generous spirit and unfortunately, there are plenty others out there to take advantage.
The 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti Tuesday was centered about 14 miles west of Port-au-Prince, the capitol. With most buildings collapsed, bodies are piled up in the streets and estimates are that 50,000 may have been killed.
Americans are opening their wallets but should be aware that charities may not be what they seem.
The Better Business Bureau is advising consumers how to vet charity appeals on its Web site. Based on the group’s experience after Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami in 2004, fraudulent charities seem to spring from disaster.
Consumers should go to the BBB Web site to research charities and relief organizations that are accredited by the BBB and meet the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.
Among the group’s recommendations:
- Beware of organizations that claim 100 percent of funding will go to help earthquake victims. Administrative and fund raising expenses always need to be funded.
- Be cautious about giving online. Many charities created overnight surfaced after the tsunami disaster in 2004.
- Find out if the group provides direct aid or is raising funds for others. Check out who is the ultimate recipient of funds.
- Giving clothing, food, water may not get to the intended unless the organization has people at the disaster site. Ask the charity about its distribution plans.
Texting To Donate
ABC News reports to give to a charitable group that had operations in Haiti before the earthquake. They are most likely to have personnel and equipment already there to render the immediate help that's needed.
The American Red Cross allows people to text “HAITI” to 90999 to make an instant $10 donation. And Twitter and Facebook have seen a frenzy of instructions to send texts to certain numbers and select “Yes” when prompted. Some are valid, but many are not. Going Cellular.com reports you might think a request is valid if it comes from a friend, and $10 is not much, but don’t assume your friend has checked out the request source.
Independently verify that it is coming from a valid charity or organization. Do a simple Web search to confirm that organization is soliciting using a phone number. If not, be sure to let your friend know or Facebook or Twitter the information yourself.
GoingCellular.com also reports that as of this writing, Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T are not charging for charity texts, but Sprint is.
Other worthy charities are World Vision; Save the Children; Care USA; Groups like UNICEF, Mercy Corps, and The American Red Cross already have emergency workers in the devastated areas of Haiti.
MSNBC has compiled a list of charitable organizations that are active in Haiti. and CharityNavigator.org is the oldest, most reputable charity evaluator. #