Talking tech since 2003

By now I am sure that you have all heard about the devastating earthquake and tsunami that has managed to wreak havoc in Japan.  While these events are indeed tragic, it is honestly heartwarming to hear of all the wonderful people in the world who are looking to open up their hearts – and their wallets – in order to assist with what is bound to be an extensive relief effort.  However, in the rush to help those in need, people are often times too quick to donate funds for the relief efforts without first ensuring that their monetary donations are actually going to be of aid.

This is a concept that troubled me during the relatively recent events in Haiti, and I honestly intended on writing a post about it at the time.   However, other obligations ultimately ended up consuming my time and I never got around to writing this post until now.  First off, I’m sure that anyone who is donating to the relief effort has the best of intentions and honestly wants to help do good.  The sad fact remains, though, that the Internet is home to millions of individuals who want to take advantage of your compassion and generosity in order to create their own deceitful and dishonest profit.

While one can often-times spot a scammer online, criminals are always getting a new edge.  With just a little work, a con man can put up a realistic looking charity website to lure in unsuspecting donors.  Much like shopping online, you should always check out the company or organization you are dealing with when donating online.  One of the easiest things you can do is run the website of the site you are thinking about donating to past the Better Business Bureau database to see if they are in good standing.  That’s right – the BBB deals with charities as well.  Personally, I would steer away from any organization that didn’t have a solid background.  If the BBB doesn’t have information on a given “charity”, it is likely a scam.  Also, looking to see when a charity’s Internet domain was registered by using a site such as whois.net will help you to ensure that you are donating to an established organization.

More recently, I have also seen a number of websites and organizations working to collect donations that they will then send off to a larger charity.  While I trust that established groups and communities will keep their word on passing the funds along to the relief efforts, the disadvantage to such chains is the fact that the money is often-times not seen by the end recipient as quickly as it would be if you were to donate directly.  For example, a group may have to wait for your electronic payment to them to clear before they can send it on to the appropriate agency or charity.  What this means is that your donation could take twice as long to get to those who need it most.

Even when donating to an organization directly,using the more modern mobile-phone payment system where your donation is billed to your mobile phone account, your money may take longer than you would expect to reach its ultimate source.  You see, carriers typically wait for you to pay your mobile phone bill before they pass your donation along to the charity.  This can easily take weeks. However, during the events in Haiti a number of mobile carriers opted to make good on the donations before the contractual bills were paid; a practice that I imagine will be brought into play with the more recent Japan disaster as well.

With this in mind, it is best to simply donate directly to a well-known charity.  The Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders, for example, both make it simple to donate online.

If you were planning on donating, I hope that this article has given you the insight to be able to donate more effectively.  Do you have any donation tips?  Let us know in the comments!


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