Beware of Online Scams for Disaster-Relief Funds
In the wake of the terrorist attack that has become a national tragedy, those who are not directly affected are reaching out to help--possibly even through a mouse click.
Charity Web sites that accept contributions are not new. Unfortunately, neither are attempts to take advantage of people's generosity, online or not.
You can easily contribute to the rescue and assistance efforts online through such well-known establishments as the
Spam scams purportedly collecting money for New Yorkers may instead be lining the pockets of the senders. The scams are coming in three different flavors, says Tom Geller, executive director of
Some spammers are bulk e-mailing messages with legitimate links and information on how to help victims of Tuesday's terrorist attacks. The catch occurs when you "click" on a hyperlink in the e-mail, for example to the Red Cross, and the spammer confirms your e-mail address is valid, Geller says. That's important for spam senders to know, because often bulk e-mail lists owned by spammers are filled with inactive or non-existent e-mail addresses.
Another type of e-mail scam refers recipients to a Web page that, again, contains legitimate lists of resources and links to charitable organizations. Those sites are riddled with banner ads and links that, when clicked, earn money for the Web site's owner.
Outright deception is the nastiest trick. Reports have already began trickling into anti-spam advocates such as Ken Lucke, who maintains an
"These scumbags don't waste any time," Lucke says of opportunists who quickly establish false charities and fronts for contributions that may not go where the givers intend.
Some donation sites have dubious authenticity, although they may not actually be scams. For example, at one site, you can click to donate between $25 to $250 to the Red Cross. According to the site itself, it has no affiliation to the Red Cross. It also posts a disclaimer stating that donated money goes to a combination of charities, and 10 percent of donated funds go to "administration costs."
"Just use your common sense," Lucke says. Geller urges people to donate only directly to well-established organizations such as the Red Cross.
"Many of these spammers are trying to steal money and credit card numbers," the group says. "Do not respond to these e-mails."
The Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-mail also warns of online attempts to fraudulently profit from the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
You can easily make contributions through established sites that aggregate charitable contributions to various causes. For example,
Several companies are also promoting donations.
It pays to