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How to Give to Typhoon Victims Without Being Scammed

Fake charities use deadly Typhoon Haiyan to scam donors out of cash.

Survivors walk in typhoon ravaged Tacloban city, Leyte province, central Philippines. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Survivors walk in typhoon ravaged Tacloban city, Leyte province, central Philippines. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

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Images of Haiyan, the super typhoon which gutted parts of the Philippines last week, and its destruction have been widely broadcast, stirring strong emotions and spurring the desire, for many, to help.

People in the Philippines desperately need assistance as reports now tell that more than 11 million people have likely been affected, and hundreds of thousands displaced.

But the Internet is rife with opportunists using the typhoon to scam good Samaritans out of money.

This depravity isn’t unique to the Haiyan. For instance, there’s the example of Urban Life Ministries, a charity from New York who raised $4 million to help with 9/11 efforts, but filed less than $700,00 on tax forms. Or, another group who, having collected on behalf of Hurricane Sandy victims last year, handed over less than $1,700 to the victims but spent over $17,000 on dinners out, credit card bills and online shopping.

To help curb cybercriminals in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, the Department of Homeland Security’s US-CERT (United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team) has published a host of helpful tips to make sure your donation reaches its intended recipient.

• Never pursue an unsolicited email from anyone claiming to be a charity. Look for charities you know to be legitimate, and don’t let the spurious ones find you.

• Never provide personal or financial information unless you are sure about the charity’s legitimacy.

• Look specifically at the URL: “Malicious websites may look identical to a legitimate site, but the URL may use a variation in spelling or a different domain (e.g., .com vs. .net).”

• Always filter your spam.

• Maintain updated antivirus and firewall software.

Do give and, if at all possible, send money and not goods. It will have the most impact. Go here to read more about what US-CERT recommends to avoid cybercriminals on the prowl after Typhoon Haiyan.

Have you been the victim of charity fraud? Tell us about it in the comments or a blog post.

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