After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina many of us here in the United States and abroad are left in a state of shock. There have been many weather related catastrophic events of late. There were devastating hurricanes that hit the state of Florida so close together that we were left reeling trying to figure out how to help those unfortunate people. Then there was the tsunami that hit Indonesia in December; the world is still mourning the loss of their loved ones from that disaster. Now, we have Hurricane Katrina and her aftermath to deal with. New Orleans is under water for the most part and will be for months to come. Biloxi, Mississippi is severly damaged and several other cities and small towns along the Gulf Coast have been decimated to a point that they no longer exist and may never again. We, who are safe and sound, can’t imagine how those left homeless and jobless will pick up the pieces again.
Once upon a time there was a civil war in the United States. Atlanta, Georgia and several other great cities of the southland were burned to the ground. Plantations were burned or destroyed. Why do I bring this up? There were people who arrived on the scene from the north, and opportunistic Southerners, who offered to help the poor people of the south, get back on their feet. They were eventually called carpet baggers because of the valises they carried into town with them that looked as if were made of carpet. The Southererners were called Scaliwags. They swindled the people for all they were worth and that really wasn’t much, but it left the people even more poor and devastated all the same. With every tragedy comes about those who would connive to steal our hard earned money, not for the relief of the victims of these catastrophic events, but for their own pockets, and they are everywhere. They are not just from the United States, but other countries as well.
These con artists aren’t just knocking at your door the way they used to. Bob Mims of the Salt Lake Tribune reports an influx of domain registrations with the name Katrina being auctioned off on e-Bay. Don’t be fooled by these sites. Just as in hurricanes past unscrupulous individuals are setting up bogus websites dedicated to relieving you of your hard-earned money, or your bank account and credit card numbers. They will steal you blind if you are not careful and your good intentions will be for nothing. They might even take on a similar name of a legitimate organization that is helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina. It is best to go directly to the American Red Cross’s web site, or the Salvation Army’s web site.
Make sure the websites you link to the charities through are legitimate. MSN, Yahoo!, Google, among other search sites, television stations and networks, radio stations, and various sporting organizations such as the NFL and NASCAR, to name but a few, offer links to the American Red Cross, and Habitat for Humanity to aid the victims of the hurricane and help them rebuild.
Be cautious of websites and charities that seem to appear over night; if set up correctly, they can obtain your information because you are linked through their sites. They can also link you to a bogus site that looks like the real thing so pay close attention to the spelling of the names, or use a search engine to find the correct site rather than going through a site about which you are unsure.
Be wary of telephone and door-to-door solicitations. Even if they are legitimate, they will still take a part of the money for themselves. Always ask if they can tell you how to give to the organization directly, FEMA suggests. If they can’t tell you how then they have no business collecting for them. Another suggestion is: Never pay in cash. Always pay with a check and make it out to the organization; not the person collecting the money. Get a tax receipt as well. Your donations are tax deductible. Definitely ask for identification of door-to-door solicitors. Ask for information on their organization. They should be able to give it to you without hesitation. Don’t let telemarketers pressure into making a donation either. A polite ‘no’ should suffice; after all, you don’t know who you are talking to. They might be legitimate; they might not.
The National Consumers League’s Internet Fraud Watch website suggests you get information on a potential charity by calling your local Better Business Bureau or going online to www.give.org, the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, where you will find a list of charitable organizations for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The Federal Trade commission has a website where you can check things out as well. You will find them along with some good suggestions as to how not to get ripped off at www.ftc.gov/charityfraud or you can call toll free at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
There are other perfectly legitimate organizations taking donations for the Hurricane Katrina disaster victims you just have to do your homework to guarantee that the money you intended to help really does go to the effort and not just into someone else’s pocket. Donations are badly needed and your generosity will be greatly appreciated by those you are helping.
To reach the American Red Cross you can dial 1-800-Help-Now (1-800-435-6669) or go online at www.redcross.org. The Salvation Army can be found at www.salvationarmyusa.org or 1-800-Sal-Army (1-800-725-2769). Habitat for Humanity can be found on line at www.habitat.org. or cal 1(800) Habitat ext. 2979.