Grand Rapids, MI - October 29, 2012 - As the country prepares for Hurricane Sandy flooding and wind damage along the east coast this week, Better Business Bureau reminds the generous people of West Michigan to thoroughly check out any charity related to helping storm victims. If you want to make contributions, stick to Web sites of established national charities. While most people and organizations are planning how to limit the damage and prepare for relief efforts, scammers are getting ready to use the storm's impact to make some easy money.
BBB advises that people who want to make a donation should actively seek out reputable organizations and then contact them by telephone or by typing their Web address into a Web browser. The Federal Trade Commission says people should never click on any link in an e-mail solicitation because they may end up at a site that looks real but is set up by identity thieves to get confidential information. If you get an e-mail from the Red Cross or Salvation Army, close the e-mail and go to the real web sites through a search engine, or contact them directly by phone or regular mail.
One way of choosing a solid charity is to use http://www.give.org, part of the charity-monitoring service of the Better Business Bureau. Be careful about new charities that spring up overnight. They may have good intentions, but don't have the means or experience to deliver aid.
A few years ago when Hurricane Katrina ripped Louisiana and Mississippi, several Web sites emerged, promising to forward money to relief workers. Bearing such names as Katrinahelp.com, the sites asked for money to be sent through Paypal, but there was no way to verify who was actually getting the money. After the tsunami that destroyed many cities in Indonesia and Thailand in 2004, researchers found more than 170 tsunami-related scam sites being used to siphon donations to relief efforts. Using a technique known as "phishing," sites or e-mails pretended to represent a legitimate company to get consumers to post personal information such as a credit card number or bank account. Computer users should remain vigilant against e-mails claiming to contain attached photos of the disaster because clicking on such files could launch viruses or worms.