Following Tuesday’s, 7.0 earthquake in Haiti, everyone around the world is eager to do their part. Help these tragic suffering people who didn’t have much in the first place, who now have absolutely nothing at all, not even each other.
It seemed like the ground hadn’t even stopped shaking yet before the Twitter-verse lit up with “Help Haiti Now” tweets and instructions on how to send money to these impoverished victims. Facebook chimed in with a fan page where you can make donations. All my email accounts got the same six emails urging me to donate immediatley. I must have received 17 text messages, forwards from friends telling me that I could text some number and it would donate $5 in my name. Yeah, right.
It’s not that I don’t give a damn, and actually I don’t. You can say I’m the worst person in the world, and I probably am, but that is not the focus of this particular blog. I’ll save my evil bitching for another more appropriate time, when there aren’t still bodies laying in the street. The point of this blog is that people are so eager to help that they couldn’t spot a scam if it slapped in the face. You can do Haiti, and all your friends, a bigger favour by actually paying attention to what you’re reading before you advise all your friends to text, Tweet, or Facebook away their live savings. Don’t just mindlessly send on some email chain letter that you got this morning telling you that all donations will help Haiti’s children. Isn’t it amazing that suddenly all these fly-by-night charity organisations are cropping up moments after a disaster? Where were these people the day before the earth shook? Haiti has always been one of the poorest countries in the world. They didn’t just suddenly lose everything that Tuesday; they never had anything to begin with, and now some random charity wants you to help and you’re such a bleeding heart that you’re ready to squander away the few pennies that you have to some avaricious asshole.
Last night on Facebook, a very good friend of mine updated her status to read that doctors and nurses were receiving free flights to Haiti so they could lend their medical expertise. My friend urged everyone to update their statuses to read the same thing. Not that any of us are doctors, but get the word out that medical professionals will be flown willy-nilly into a destruction zone so they can perform surgeries in the street. When I saw that, I was quite surprised. Free flights? In a time when the airlines are practically going bust? Yeah, I know, everyone wants to help, but most companies still have business plans and money to make. They might be willing to give one or two free flights, but I highly doubt I could just walk up to BWI and say I’m a nurse and hop a plane to Port-au-Prince, especially since the airport there has suspended operations. From watching the news, I already knew that only military craft is being permitted into the country at this time.
This morning, one of the first articles on CNN is the free flights scam. I was also seeing tweets about UPS shipping anything under fifty pounds for free. This is also a scam. UPS has donated money because the infrastructure in Haiti is so fucked up that they couldn’t ship anything over there anyway, free or not.
There’s also an email going around that claims to be from the British Red Cross. This is also a scam. Unfortunately, since most people do not read or write well, they didn’t notice all of the misspellings and typos in the email. That should have alerted you right away. The Red Cross is quite reputable, and they have public relations people whose primary job is to get the word out on how to donate. They don’t hire illiterate non-English speaking second graders to type up their press releases. The British Red Cross is a real agency, but the email did not come from them. They ask you to respond with your credit card information so they can process a donation in your name. Anybody who has done this is a dummy. Call your credit card company immediately and have your card cancelled, then go kick yourself in the ass.
If you really would like to help go to a charitable organisation’s website. Do not follow links that you receive in your email. Be wary of texting to some number to donate. There are a few out there that are legitimate but do you really have a way of verifying if that number is real? Wyclef Jean started up this thing and you can text YELE to this number, but what if I started sending out a text message that said, “Text YELE to [some random number that is really my bank account].” How would you know the difference? Do not open any attachments that you receive in emails. Some people have reported receiving emails supposedly containing photos of the disaster in Haiti. When you click on these photos, it’s nothing but a virus. If you go to a website and that website contains a whole bunch of numbers, it might be fake. Non-profit charity organisations tend to end in .org, not .com. If they start asking for social security number and pin number, it’s probably fake. If they were legit, they don’t need all that to process a payment. Just because a website looks all fancy with a bright red DONATE button, that doesn’t mean it’s the real thing. Any mildly retarded four year old can build a website these days. According to USA Today, more than 400 new websites related to Haiti have been registered since the earthquake. Suddenly, everybody is all “Go Haiti?” Organisations don’t just pop up overnight to help; they’ve been in existence because they were already helping.
Be smart with your money. You’re donating because you care, because you have the means to do so. You don’t want that money in some greedy bastard’s pockets, getting rich off other people’s suffering. Don’t get swept up in the cause. All it takes is a few seconds’ rational thinking and half a minute to do a proper investigation of the website, text, tweet, or email. If you pay attention, you’ll feel good about yourself for helping out and someone who actually needs the money will get it.
Barring that legitimate organisation isn’t corrupt… but, like I said, that’s for another blog.