Sunday, October 09, 2005

Is Fraud Around the Corner in the South Asia Earthquake?

The death toll in Katrina just recently went over 1,000. Already, the death toll in yesterday's earthquake in Kashmir has reached 20,000. This will cause untold suffering for the people in the Kashmir area, who have lived under the threat of war and terrorist activity since 1947, when Great Britain gave Pakistan and India their independence.

There are reports of rescue teams and ordinary citizens using their bare hands trying to dig survivors out of the rubble.

"President Pervez Musharraf (Pakistan) said there were difficulties reaching remote areas. He thanked foreign countries for expressions of sympathy, but said what Pakistan needed most were blankets and tents, transport helicopters and medicines."

These people deserve our help and hopefully the world is going to be generous. What I fear is that as in every disaster, we have seen recently, the cyberscum (fraudster) element are already gearing up to siphon off as much of the charity money as they can get their hands on. As I write this, I'm guessing that fraud charity websites are probably being designed and domain names (relevant to the earthquake) are being bought up to be later sold to the highest bidder.

Although, it hasn't hit the internet yet (to my knowledge), we are probably going to see Advance fee fraud (419) letters circulating regarding this. Someone will probably claim to have inherited millions of dollars from a Saudi terrorist killed in the earthquake and will solicit assistance (via e-mail) getting this "fortune" out of the area.

The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) addressed charity fraud in the wake of Katrina and published some helpful tips, which will probably be relevant to this disaster, also. Here they are:


"Donate to recognized charities you have given to before. Watch out for charities that have sprung up overnight. They may be well-meaning, but lack the infrastructure to provide assistance. And be wary of charities with names that sound like familiar, or nationally known organizations. Some phony charities use names that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations.

Give directly to the charity, not the solicitors for the charity. Solicitors take a portion of the proceeds to cover their costs, which leaves less for victim assistance. Do not provide personal or financial information, including your Social Security number or credit card and bank account numbers to anyone who solicits from you. Scam artists use this information to commit fraud against you.

Check out any charities before you donate. Contact the Better Business Bureaus Wise Giving Alliance at http://www.give.org/. Do not give or send cash. For security and tax record purposes, contribute by check or credit card.

Write the official name of the charity on your check. You can contribute safely online through international charities like www.redcross.org/donate."

Ask for identification if you are approached in person. Often, paid fundraisers are required to identify themselves as such and to name the charity for which they are soliciting.

Should you suspect fraud, report it to the authorities. In the United States, you can file a report directly with the FTC at http://www.ftc.gov/.

Please give to the people of South Asia wisely by being AWARE of the "cybercriminals", who would try to profit from the suffering of human beings!

1 comment:

Sally said...

The people who perpetuate these scams are unbelievably low! The diseaster is devastating and there seems to be lots of diseasters recently and then when the scams are making people who donate think twice about donating...lower than low!