Thursday, January 14, 2010

Human Suffering, Haiti Scams

As if human suffering and loss of life aren't enough, major disasters spawn bad information, creating even more victims.

Preying on the good intentions of people who want to help, scammers piggyback on disasters like the Asian tsunami, Hurricane Kathrina and more recently the earthquake in Haiti.

The media is aware of the pattern and is pretty good warning us about the activity of online predators. For example, here's an excerpt of what the Better Business Bureau suggests (complete article):

BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers the following six tips to help people decide where to direct their donations:

1. Rely on expert opinion when it comes to evaluating a charity.

2. Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims.

3. Be cautious when giving online.

4. Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas.

5. Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups.

6. In the case of gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations, find out about transportation and distribution plans.

These are all good ideas for investigative searching, a critical component of information fluency. Checking out the author, publisher, date, references and content are the pillars of evaluation. The BBB's list provides insights for checking content.  Most sites that warn about such scams also emphasize NOT making impulsive (e.g., emotional) decisions.

Personally, I haven't received a scam request (yet). I have found one example online, however. If you are conducting workshops on evaluation or Web 2.0 for students or staff, the aftermath of disaster is a ripe time to incorporate real-life examples of bogus appeals and provide practice in evaluating their authenticity.

Challenge: If you've received a Haiti donation scam, please share it here! We can analyze it together.

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