Beware of sham organizations seeking money for Haiti
Posted on January 24, 2010 at 6:06 pm
Unfortunately, it’s far too easy to set up a sham organization and collect money from well-meaning donors trying to help Haiti. Since I’ve been asked about this in two interviews I thought it would be worth laying out in a short post.
Creating a sham website
It’s extraordinarily easy to create a website for a fake organization.
- Download some photos of the disaster from the Internet
- Develop a simple website using the photos and and then write up a plea for donor dollars and state what you will do with them
- Create a name that is just slightly different than a real organization – perhaps you could be Save the Child instead of Save the Children or put the word “foundation” on the end of a well known organization’s name.
- Create a little bit of history with a few of what I call “happy stories” photos of individuals and a short, cheery story of how your organization changed that person’s life.
- Create a huge “Give Now!” button
To get the word out you could create a facebook page, send out mailers, or create a twitter account and start sending out fake tweets about what your organization is doing.
You could even be brass and simply co-opt the name and logo of a well known organization. Create a facebook or twitter account and direct people to send money to your Western Union account. The different ways to fool well-intentioned donors are endless.
How not to get caught by a scammer
Always get to the website through an internet search of the exact name. Don’t use any link sent to you in an email because it could direct you to a site that has been created to look like the real organization.
Look for other links with the organization’s name. If they are a legitimate organization they will have an internet presence dating back years with meeting notes, press releases, presentations, and information on staff. There will also be a consistent internet and email address.
Dig a little deeper into the website. There should be past annual reports, financial audits, and information about board members and key staff.
Don’t feel pressured to give. If someone calls or comes to your door insist on getting information in writing and then tell them if you like the organization you’ll give directly to their website.
Give only on the organization’s own website, don’t give to solicitations over the phone or via a link on twitter or facebook.
Don’t send money using Western Union