Video: Avoiding Haiti charity scams

  1. Closed captioning of: Avoiding Haiti charity scams

    >>> an update the red cross said they have received $2 million by texted donations, when you text 90999, the word "haiti" $10 is charged to your phone bill and goes right to the red cross . they are gathering a lot of money. when disasters, good hearted people want to help. all too often there are scammers out there hoping to exploit the situation. joining me bob sullivan , a senior writer for msnbc.com and also the author of the new book, stop getting richd off. why consumers get screwed and why you can always get a fair deal . the fbi put out a warning yesterday, what are the scams already taking place.

    >> you know, contessa, two things are guaranteed when there's a disaster. america will be generous and scum bags will show up and try to exploit the situation. there are four or five things that already started to appear. there's e-mail scams. there's computer viruses being sent. be very careful about this. someone sends an e-mail, click on this picture, could be a virus, don't click on it. another thing to worry about, search engine poisoning. folks set up these fake websites and you go on google like haiti relief, donate money, they cram themselves into the search results . click on one of two of those links thinking you're donating money you'll end up with a virus on your computer or someone attacking you. really there's one overarching piece of advice. go to addresses you know, got to the browser and type in redcross.org yourself. don't click on links in e-mails or search results . do it yourself.

    >> in many cases there are e-mails going back and forth. some say my church is going here, if you want to donate to the relief effort, is there a danger in those e-mail solicitations.

    >> there is. i certainly don't want to kill anybody's spirit at times of help because that's what happens at times like this. scammers know what to insert in e-mails. it looks like they are part of a conversation. they say, i'm part of the church, too. so many people belong to these large chumpbls. one thing people won't do at normal times people are texting money. slow down and do it the old-fashioned way. call redcross.org and you'll be safe.

updated 1/14/2010 10:27:25 AM ET 2010-01-14T15:27:25

Call after call from victims seeking help from emergency services in earthquake-shattered Haiti are simply not getting through because systems that connect different phone networks are not working, officials from a telecommunications provider in the country said Wednesday.

David Goldfarb, an engineer from Alcatel-Lucent, said the company has been able to see through the Internet and other means that emergency calls so many have been attempting are not reaching their destination.

Goldfarb explained that when people make calls from their cell phones, they go through a certain network. The emergency dispatch or police station they are trying to reach might be on another network. The connecting lines or "trunks" in many parts of the country are down, so the calls don't go through, he said.

Calls are being placed sometimes 15 to 20 times from the same phone, which is "painful to watch," said Jyoti Mahurkar-Thombre, Alcatel-Lucent's general manager of wireless voice, because the person probably desperately needs help.

People on the same network, however, may have an easier time getting through to each other, she said. Alcatel-Lucent's provider in Haiti is Digicel, but the country has several others, she said.

The company wants to help by reaching people in Haiti to give them a list of the numbers it sees calling the emergency number 114. This way, people on the same network may be able to reach those who keep calling, she said.

Time is of the essence, she said, because generators running some of the systems may not be working soon and the batteries in people's phones will run out without a way to recharge them.

She added that the company is trying to find a way to post numbers of people who are still making calls to at least let loved ones trying to contact them know that a call was placed from their phone in the last hour or day. It doesn't mean it is the person, she pointed out, just that the call came from the phone. But at least it would be something, she said.

Mahurkar-Thombre and Goldfarb said they have also tried to call from their offices in Florida to the numbers they see, but cannot get through, as so many relatives have reported.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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