[Hpn] SCAM ARTISTS BEWARE
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
“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
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