In the days following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, it’s become increasingly clear that the relief effort needs to be enormous and long-term. Hundreds of organizations are mobilizing to meet the need, but where will your dollar do the most good? We sought out the best advice on avoiding scams and choosing legitimate relief organizations.
Where to help:
An easy way to help is to make a quick donation using your cell phone. You can also donate $10 to Red Cross relief efforts in Haiti by texting “Haiti” to 90999. More than $3 million has been donated so far. The donation itself is added to your next phone bill. Similarly, you can donate $5 with your phone by texting “YELE” to 501501. Money goes to Yele Haiti, a charity founded in 2005 by recording artist Wyclef Jean, Goodwill Ambassador to Haiti .
CharityNavigator.org, which rates charities according to efficiency and disclosure, has a list of established charities providing relief in Haiti. The list includes a summary of star ratings for each agency, plus a link to a full report on the organization.
About.com’s guide to charitable organizations also includes tips for finding news and lists of legitimate relief agencies.
If you don’t want to do a lot of reading, here’s a shortlist of some of the largest organizations mobilizing to help:
What about animals and pets?
So far, animal relief organizations like the Humane Society and the ASPCA are not making large appeals for Haiti’s animal population. As with Hurricane Katrina, it may be a few days before animals’ agencies can start rescue operations and get personnel and supplies into the area. The International Fund for Animal Welfare is on alert, noting that humanitarian efforts need to be well underway before animal rescue efforts can begin in earnest.
Can I volunteer?
Right now, it’s difficult for individuals to get to Haiti at all. If you have medical expertise, you might be able to volunteer through an organization already on the ground, but at this point, even getting someone on the phone is tough. More opportunities will likely be available in the coming months when longer-term programs are underway. We couldn’t find any agencies that are asking for volunteers at this time. Note that rumors about free flights to Haiti for volunteers are untrue.
Sadly, plenty of scammers are out there ready to take advantage of a crisis situation. Most operate by posing as a charitable organization, soliciting money through emails or by telephone. Then once your credit card has been charged, the scammers disappear with your cash.
Guidelines for choosing charities are the same whether it’s a crisis or not, and we found lots of good tips on avoiding scams. CharityNavigator.org and the FBI both have a list of tips. Here are some highlights:
- Don’t click on links within email solicitations, even if they look legitimate. That’s because scammers often create fake websites and links using the names of legitimate charities. Never click on the link within the email if you want to help. Always go through the organization’s home page, even if it’s a well known outfit like the Red Cross or CARE International.
- Don’t respond to telephone solicitations. It’s better to make contributions through a charity’s secure website, or by calling the agency directly.
- Ignore emails from people claiming to be victims. Charity Navigator say, “Anyone alleging to be in this position is most likely part of a scam. People affected by a disaster or afflicted by a disease are in no position to contact you directly for assistance.”
- Don’t give out your bank-account information or personal details. Legitimate charities will never ask for your banking information or social-security number.
Source Christine Frietchen
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