Don’t Fall for the Quake Shakedown

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May 23, 2008 LITTLE ROCK Earlier this month an earthquake, measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale, rocked Sichuan province in western China, where more than 15 million people live. Already, the disaster has left 5 million people homeless, claimed 55,000 lives and still threatens to claim more as rivers continue to overflow in the aftermath. Naturally, with a large-scale disaster such as this, many people around the world have felt compelled to donate money towards the recovery. While these donors simply wish to help those in need, unfortunately there are those who wish to only help themselves by capitalizing on such generosity. Today, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued this consumer alert to warn Arkansans about a new email scam that seeks to fraudulently solicit funds for earthquake relief. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has asked consumers to be on alert for an unsolicited email that offers a prize, such as a free vacation, to the largest donor. Other fake fundraising emails use real logos from legitimate organizations to try and fool people into donating money. While the Public Protection Department of the Attorney General's Office has not received any complaints about this scam from Arkansas consumers, it is only a matter of time before the Internet brings it home to the Natural State. If you want to donate money to earthquake recovery efforts in China or any relief effort or organization, here are some tips to remember to ensure that your funds are put to their intended use:- Never provide personal or financial information in response to an unsolicited email; - Do not click on links provided within spam email; - Do not donate to an individual third-party that claims to be representative of an organization; and - Contact a charitable organization directly by phone or via its Web site if you wish to make a donation; - Research an organization's track record and non-profit status by contacting the Attorney General's Office via phone at 1-800-482-8982 or email at oag@ArkansasAG.gov.