The City of Sanibel's Police Chief, Bill Tomlinson, is advising the public to be cautious about the relief organizations that they choose to give donations for the victims of the recent Haitian earthquake. Donate to organizations you have previous experience and confidence.
He also offered the following suggestions:
Extensively research any charity or organization that you plan to donate to. Scammers seize on tragedies as opportunities to steal your money. Donate to well known organizations such as the Red Cross who have a history of disaster relief.
Check on a charity with the Attorney General's Office, Better Business Bureau, and your local consumer affairs agency.
Beware of unsolicited spam e-mails seeking funds for relief efforts, containing attachments, or promising to locate missing loved ones for a fee. These e-mails can spread viruses and should be immediately deleted.
Trust your instincts. If you are unsure about the charity or agency you are dealing with, untrusting of the person on the other end of the phone, or just uncomfortable with an organization, then don't make a donation. Common sense is your best weapon against a scammer.
Never send money to phone solicitors representing charities that you have never heard of. If you are making a phone donation, make the call yourself, and donate to a well-known relief agency. Use credit cards/checks instead of cash donations.
Never give any credit card or bank account information to unknown charities over the phone or to door-to-door solicitors.
When donating online, make sure the Web site is secure. For example, it should have a lock icon on it or a URL that begins with "https."
Donate to a charity that has a history of using a large portion of donations for relief efforts and not for its own operating costs. You can check legitimate charities on the Attorney General's Web site to see what percentage goes to relief victims.
Make sure the charity you are donating to is aware that you want your donation to go to a specific cause.
Do not donate to a charity that wants to send a courier to pick up the donation. This is a safe bet that the charity is a scam. This also presents a security risk to you at your home.
If you believe you are being scammed, call the Sanibel Police Department for an investigation at 472-3111.