The FBI is reminding Internet users who receive appeals to donate money in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti to apply a critical eye and do their due diligence before responding to those requests. Past tragedies and natural disasters have prompted individuals with criminal intent to solicit contributions purportedly for a charitable organization and/or a good cause, the bureau says.
Therefore, before making a donation of any kind, consumers should, among other things, follow these suggestions from the FBI:
* Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming emails, including clicking links contained within those messages.
* Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as surviving victims or officials asking for donations via email or social networking sites.
* Verify the legitimacy of nonprofit organizations by utilizing 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 emails 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.