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How You Can Help Haiti, Safely and Effectively

It’s been yet another natural disaster, this time in America’s own neighborhood and, as always, Americans are opening their hearts and pocket books to help those affected by the tragedy. Because the tragedy this time is so immense and the need for aid is so grave, it’s more important than ever that Americans are able to donate safely, and effectively.

The Better Business Bureau has some tips for Georgians who want to help the people of Haiti.

· Make sure that the charity you are giving to, has a presence in Haiti. A charity that does not have a presence on the ground in a disaster area will be in a poor position to help victims.

· It’s always better to give to a charity that is directly involved in helping the victims, and is not merely raising funds to be used by relief groups.

· The charity that you are donating to must be property registered.

In the midst of all the devastation, the fraudsters have already begun to crawl out of the woodwork. The FBI has warned Americans to be alert for fraudulent online schemes.

· Don’t respond to e-mails that solicit donations for Haiti.

· Confirm the legitimacy of any organization you are considering donating to before sending funds.

· Avoid giving personal information to anyone who asks for donations. This information could be used to hack your personal accounts.

Unfortunately, it seems that the Haiti earthquake and the amount of sympathy it has generated are being used as tools for phishing and identity theft.

Unlike in past disasters, this time aid groups are coming up front and asking people to simply send money and nothing else. Past earthquakes, hurricanes and the tsunami of 2004 saw tons of clothing, food, baby formula, shoes and blankets unused and discarded because of logistical problems. Things like blankets and water containers may seem like the first thing a disaster survivor needs, but these take up a lot of space on aircraft, and require manpower resources to distribute. Aids groups are calling for cash donations, instead. These cash resources will be utilized to get water resources up and running, and take care of the other emergency needs in the devastated region.