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Beware Hurricane Rita Scams

Judging from our experience with scammers siphoning off donations for otherwise legitimate Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, we will no doubt see in the coming days plenty of scammy -- or at least fishy-looking -- Web sites asking for Paypal donations and promising to forward the money to the Red Cross or some other charity as Hurricane Rita approaches.

After Katrina hit, many well-meaning people put up their own Web sites asking for Paypal donations to help victims, while providing little or no information about who operated the sites or which charity would benefit from the donations. Many of those same folks were deeply offended when self-appointed Internet scam-hunters worked behind the scenes to get those sites shut down.

Anyone who gets the urge to put up one of these sites after Rita's landfall should at least point or even redirect visitors to well-known and/or established charities. By doing so you will save the scam-hunters and yourselves a great deal of time and aggravation, and you will give donors more for their money. As I understand it, unless you are an approved nonprofit entity, anyone giving you a donation cannot legally claim it as a deduction on their tax returns.

I note with moderate amusement that a great number of Rita-related auctions already are underway. Somebody is selling a piece of burnt toast with the storm etched onto it, promising to forward 40 percent of the profits to Katrina victims. (I can only assume this person got the idea from the famous "Virgin Mary Grilled Cheese" that sold for $28,000.)

This auction, however, is in danger of being closed down. According to eBay's auction rules, if you are promising to use your auction to raise money on behalf of a charity, you must either display a note of approval from a named charity (this auction doesn't), or work through eBay's approved giving program.

There are also plenty of Hurricane Rita domain names for sale, including this one in which the bidding starts at $2,500.

By Brian Krebs  |  September 22, 2005; 12:51 PM ET
Categories:  Latest Warnings  
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I recieved an email today asking me to donate to the Salvation Army for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. The link actually took me to a website in Germany. I would imagine we will see other charity groups being used by scammers to get 'donations' for themselves.

Posted by: Diabl0 | September 24, 2005 7:35 AM | Report abuse

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