William Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Sun, 21 Oct 2001 09:50:33 -0400

 Sunday, October 21, 2001

 By JACQUELINE L. SALMON, The Washington Post

 The subject line of the e-mail pleads, “Your support is needed.”
 When the message is opened, a window with the familiar logo of the Red
 and photos of wide-eyed children pop up. It appears to be a donation
 from the three largest fundraisers for the Sept. 11 terrorism relief
 the American Red Cross, the United Way of New York City and the New York
 Community Trust.
 “Your contribution will be used to help respond to the immediate and
 long-term needs of the victims,” the form reads. “Please, donate now.”
 Contributors are asked to type in their name, address, credit card number
 and other personal information and to send the form on to its digitized
 charitable destination.
 It’s easy. It’s also a scam.
 None of the big three – the Red Cross, the United Way or the New York
 Community Trust – is soliciting Sept. 11 funds via e-mail, officials
 confirmed Friday, nor are they receiving any money contributed in such a
 Rather, the e-mails sent to an unknown number of recipients in recent days
 are the latest Web scam, using the Internet to illegally carve off a chunk
 of the hundreds of millions of dollars that Americans and others have been
 pouring into various Sept. 11 relief funds.
 More than $1 billion has been collected by bona fide organizations, perhaps
 as much as a fourth of it through online giving, officials say.
 In the aftermath of the terrorist assaults, a slew of Web sites popped up
 seeking contributions to causes that include the families of dead or
 firefighters, children orphaned by the tragedy and pets left homeless. Some
 were legitimate appeals, others were not – and recipients were often left
 their own to figure out which was the case.
 The latest bogus appeal came to the attention of Red Cross officials
 Thursday morning, when their online security company alerted them to it.
 Calls started coming in from puzzled recipients of the e-mail wondering
 whether it was for real.
 “It’s extremely deceptive,” said Phil Zepeda, director of online media for
 the Red Cross, “and it preys on innocent people looking to make a very
 significant donation to national disaster relief, which is sad.”
 Point-and-click giving has taken off since the Sept. 11 disaster. Donors
 like not having to write a check and hunt for a stamp or take the time to
 call a hot line number and give over the telephone.
 Many charities and other nonprofit groups like online giving because it’s
 fast, easy and inexpensive. They don’t have to set up lavish fundraising
 events. They can reduce their dependence on telemarketers and their
 dinnertime pitches. And they may not have to invest in direct-mail letters,
 which in these anthrax-anxious times may never be opened.
 Online donating even got a boost from President Bush, who shortly after the
 attacks urged Americans to do their donating at the Web site
 libertyunites.org, a joint venture of AOL Time Warner, Amazon.com, Cisco
 Systems and other high-tech organizations.
 The results have been astounding, organizers say. The site reports that it
 has received $104 million.
 Overall estimates vary, but online contributions appear to account for 15
 percent to 25 percent of the more than $1 billion given to the relief
 effort, according to fund-raisers and others who study philanthropy.
 The Red Cross says $60 million of the $450 million it has received has come
 via the Internet. The day of the attacks, almost 250,000 users swamped the
 organization’s Web site at redcross.org – compared with about 21,000 on a
 normal day – nearly shutting it down.
 The United Way has received at least $12 million online, while the
 ePhilanthropy Foundation counts at least $124.8 million in donations from
 estimated 575,000 people since Sept 11.
 The AOL Time Warner Foundation – which is funneling credit card donations
 charities registered on its helping.org Web site – estimates that online
 giving has soared from 2 percent of its total before the events of Sept. 11
 to 16 percent now.

 Portions © 2001, Telegraph Publishing Company, Nashua, New Hampshire