Image: BlackBerry Messenger text message
msnbc.com
A well-meaning, but false, text message about Haiti relief is being forwarded among BlackBerry users of BlackBerry Messenger.
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msnbc.com
updated 1/18/2010 1:47:58 PM ET 2010-01-18T18:47:58

Some BlackBerry users are getting well-meaning, but untrue, instant messages suggesting 35 cents will be donated to help Haiti when they forward the message to others.

"Because of what has transpired in Haiti recently, Blackberry (sic) has decided to help out and give 35 cents for the cause when you pass this message along to your friends on BBM,” says the message.

"BBM" stands for "BlackBerry Messenger," an instant messaging program available to users of the smartphone for messaging other BlackBerry users. BlackBerry Messenger is free to use, and messages do not cost money to send. But the information is misleading, said a spokesperson for Research In Motion who asked not to be named.

Research In Motion, the Canadian company that makes BlackBerrys, "is donating funds as well as BlackBerry devices to the relief effort, but ... RIM does not charge a transactional fee for BBM messages and did not originate the message" being sent to BlackBerry users, the spokesperson said.

It's possible that "the message originated from a legitimately confused user (who misunderstood some other unrelated news about charitable organizations raising funds through the texting medium), or perhaps the information morphed after passing through a string of people," the spokesperson said.

All major wireless carriers in the United States are accepting — but not directly soliciting — text message-based donations. In order to pledge money, customers need to use "short codes," or a string of five numbers, to initiate the donation.

For example, in the case of the Red Cross, phone users can text the word "HAITI" to 90999 to donate $10," and when prompted, hit "YES" to confirm the donation. The amount is added to the cell user's bill.

Some BlackBerry uses who received the instant message were appropriately skeptical of it as spam when they received it.

"I wonder if these BBM messages are true?! You think they really are gonna donate 35 cent for each forwarding of these messages?!" posted one BlackBerry user on CrowdEye.com.

"BlackBerry (RIM) is not giving out 35 cents for a forwarded BBM!!!!" wrote another.

As of Monday, the mobile-giving campaign raised more than $19 million alone for the American Red Cross.

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