Watch Out for Haiti Charity Scams

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  • People affected by the earthquake in Haiti. | Photo: MSNBC

MILWAUKEE - As relief aid pours into Haiti, consumer advocacy groups are warning people about scammers who could try to prey on your generosity.

"We want Wisconsinites to use their head, and give with their heart," said Wisconsin Better Business Bureau President Randall Hoth.

He says that means being aware of exactly where their money is going.

"I think the biggest concern is spam, fake web sites and links that may be coming to people online. Being cautious when giving online in a disaster like this is important."

Make sure you know who is operating the site, and being highly suspicious if they claim that 100 percent of your donation will go to victims, since every legitimate charity involves some operating cost.

Raw Video:
AP Video of the quake as it's happening

One person from Southeastern Wisconsin is reported missing in Haiti:
Peter Van Horn, a Town of Delafield Supervisor

More: 
Milwaukee-Area Student Returns from Haiti 
La Crosse Man Feared Dead in Haiti
Watch Out for Haiti Charity Scams
Sheboygan Church Group OK after Quake
Local Woman Longs To Help Family in Haiti
Local Haitian Student Worries and Waits
No Word Yet on Child Sponsored by WTMJ Anchor
Racine Couple Loses Family in Earthquake
Church Groups Workers OK
UW Group in Haiti Unhurt
Local Groups Reeling
Milwaukee's Eyes on Haiti
MSNBC Coverage

Audio: 
Mike Elliott letting "Wisconsin's Morning News" know Melissa Elliott was found
Dr. Ron and Ronnie Pruhs, who have done service work in Haiti for years, on 620WTMJ's Wisconsin's Morning News

Blog: 
Shelley Walcott's "Don't Tell The Boss": My Hope for Haiti
The Cold-Filtered Ramblings of Gene Mueller: How To Help

TODAY'S TMJ4 HD's "How You Can Help Phone Bank"
You raised $54,000!  Thank you!

Sampling of Haiti-Serving Charities with Milwaukee Connections:
American Red Cross of Southeastern Wisconsin
Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee World Mission Ministries
Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee Haiti Project
Friends for Health in Haiti 
Gesu Parish in Milwaukee, twinning with St. Jude's Church in Haiti
Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Milwaukee, twinning with Norwich Mission House in Haiti
Our Little Brothers and Sisters
Salvation Army of Southeastern Wisconsin
St. Francis Cabrini Parish in West Bend's Haiti Outreach
St. Mary's of Hales Corners
Three Angels Children's Relief

Other Efforts: 
Text HAITI to 90999 and $10 will be donated automatically to the Red Cross, charged to your cell phone bill
MSNBC's List of Charitable Organizations

Moreover, a number of fraudulent imitators of the Red Cross' highly popular Text to Donate program have sprung up in the past few days.

"The good news is that there are legitimate charities that have set up text to donate," said Hoth. "Our concern is that an e-mail or a web site name suggests another text name and series of letters, and we may not have any ability to see if that money is going to a legitimate charity. We recommend that you check www.state.gov. There's a listing of legitimate ways to donate using text messaging."

Hoth also recommends finding out if the group you're planning to donate to already has an on-the-ground presence in Haiti since getting workers there may be very difficult.

Also, avoid giving food, clothing or other in-kind gifts unless the group has a way to quickly and efficiently distribute them.