Most people have charitable and compassionate hearts. When something untowards happens to others who are less fortunate than ourselves, the majority of people want to reach out and give those unfortunate individuals and families a hand up.
Scammers know this, and they adeptly prey on those who are naive and compassionate. It works this way:
1. Something terrible happens.
2. The scammer sees an opportunity to make easy money.
3. A fundraiser is put together.
4. People start asking for money.
5. We give.
6. They pressure us to spread the word to our friends, family and colleagues.
7. Some of our friends, family and colleagues give as well because they take us at our word.
7. We give again because additional information states that more money is desperately needed.
8. The scammers make off with most, if not all, of the money they have collected.
And the people who were supposed to be helped are lost along the way.
There has been a campaign circulating around the internet in recent days that is just disgusting. With connections to over 700 autism and health organizations around the world including respected and recognized experts in Autism Spectrum Disorders, MIDNIGHT IN CHICAGO is making the effort to tell everyone we know about what this scam is and how it works. We are doing this so that we might better protect the autism community.
We know that some people will be upset about this blog entry, however, we trust that most people who read this will take it to heart.
We are doing this as a service to the autism community because the autism community is particularly charitable, particularly trusting, and particularly susceptible to manipulation and duplicity.
We are talking, of course, about internet and cellphone scams that have cropped up since the devastating earthquake in Haiti.
On January 12, 2010 Haiti experienced a devastating earthquake. There is heavy damage. Estimates say as many as 500,000 people may have been killed. More are injured. Clean water is hard to find, as is food, shelter, and medical and rescue equipment.
Because the airports are damaged, few flights can get into the country with the goods needed to help the survivors. This is why organizations such as the Red Cross are asking for money rather than food, clothes, or medical supplies.
And here is where the scammers come in.
In one case, the Red Cross is being targeted. It’s a fact that the U.S. Department of State has posted on their official blog that people can help by immediately by texting “HAITI” to “90999” and a donation of $10 will be given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts. The $10 is charged to your cell phone bill.
Wyclef Jean’s non-profit organization has also asked people to donate however his organization has been under investigation since before the earthquake. When it comes to filing tax returns, the IRS saw the evidence of the foundation’s poor accounting practices when “three years of returns were filed on the same day” last year.
In 2007 alone — the third year of the non-profit’s existence — that foundation spent $411,000 USD more than they generated. The amount they generated that year, according to their returns, was $79,000 USD. What’s worse, the foundation business is closely intertwined with Wyclef Jean’s personal and professional business.
With more than $2 million pouring into The Wyclef Jean Foundation Inc. via text message after just two days, experts such as the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance in Arlington, VA questioned how much of the money would help those in need.
While Wyclef Jean is busy defending himself and his foundation, one can hardly call Art Taylor, the president and chief executive of BBBWGA a troll for asking these important questions and alerting others to questionable practices within Wyclef’s organization!
There are cybercriminals out there and they are constantly on the look out for stories that will tug on compassionate people’s heartstrings so they can shake money out of your bank accounts and into their own accounts through texting fees, long distance fees, bank transfers, PayPal donations, et al.
Scammers purporting to be working for charitable organizations are soliciting for funds. And they are doing it using the good heartedness, empathy and compassion found in charitable contributors.
Reputable organizations and individuals have no problem whatsoever answering any and all of your questions with regards to where your donations are going, how much of your donation will make it to the cause and more.
These organizations include such businesses as Rogers Communications. When you text “HELP” to shortcode 1291, $5.00 CDN is donated to the Haitian relief efforts. Rogers is working with The ONEXONE Foundation and 100 per cent of all donations received in this way are going to support Partners In Health: Haiti and other Haitian relief organizations.
T-Mobile USA has waived all call charges to and from Haiti and has pledged wireless equipment to help the restoration efforts in Haiti. Additionally, T-Mobile customers can text “HAITI” to “90999” and $10 USD is automatically donated to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts. As with Rogers Communications in Canada, one hundred percent of all donations goes directly to the Red Cross.
MIDNIGHT IN CHICAGO strongly encourages everyone to practice DUE DILLIGENCE before contributing to any cause, even if everything at first glance appears to be on the up and up.
Find out who it is that is asking for the money and why.
Find out about how the people and organizations asking for the money are regarded by their peers.
Find out if they try to suppress any information that might lead to exposing the fact that they are scammers.
Be aware that if the news media isn’t covering their particular fundraiser or cause, there is a reason. That reason may be something as simple as lack of airtime or space in their publication to information that the organization or individuals are not credible or are withholding information that is pertinent to the story overall.
If a news source publishes an article or video and it is subsequently spammed off the net, write the news source to learn more about the subject the article or video covered.
Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if the charity exists and whether or not there have been any concerns or complaints.
Check with law enforcement authorities to find out if there are any complaints against the organization or individuals.
See if the revenue services in your country of origin have issued statements about the organization or individuals.
If someone purports to be acting on behalf of a charity, contact the actual charity directly before making a contribution.
If you ask the hard questions and rather than receive straight forward answers, you are threatened, intimidated or otherwise blackmailed, do not allow the scammer to continue to implicate himself or herself in your life.
If they post comments publicly and you quote their posts back to them verbatim in an effort to get straight forward answers to your questions, quoting them verbatim is not against the law nor is it a form of harrassment.
Check with Snopes to see if there is anything listed about the case to which you are thinking of contributing.
The US federal Trade Commission the nation’s consumer protection agency, has great tips to help consumers give wisely. It costs nothing to read or print out those tips.
If something doesn’t seem right, trust your instincts.
For legal advice on this matter and others like them, always contact a qualified legal representative in your country of origin.