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Authorities warn of Haiti earthquake fraud, especially on Internet

January 15, 2010 |  7:18 am

Officials are warning of con artists taking advantage of those want to donate money for Haiti earthquake relief.

"After every tragedy, a wave of scam artists take advantage of generous individuals who want to help the victims of a tragedy," California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown said. "It's important to thoroughly research charitable organizations before you write a check."

Brown’s office, which regulates charities and fundraisers, advises would-be donors to give only to registered relief agencies, to choose a known organization rather than respond to mass-emailed appeals, to write checks rather than give cash and to be on the lookout for “copycat” fundraisers trying to steal the identity of legitimate groups.

Victims of fraudulent solicitations can file a complaint on the attorney general’s website at http://ag.ca.gov/charities.php

The FBI release several tips for avoiding quake fraud:

* Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) e-mails, including clicking links contained in those messages.

* Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as surviving victims or officials asking for donations via e- mail or social networking sites.

* Verify the legitimacy of nonprofit organizations by using various Internet-based resources that may assist in confirming the group's existence and its nonprofit status rather than following a purported link to the site.

* Be cautious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files because the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.

* Make contributions directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf to ensure contributions are received and used for intended purposes.

* Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions. Providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft. Anyone who has received an e-mail referencing the above information or anyone who may have been a victim of this or a similar incident should notify the IC3 via www.ic3.gov.

-- Carol J. Williams