Haiti Earthquake Relief Requests: Is it a Scam?

The scam artists are at it again… before you fork over your hard-earned dollars to help the victims of the tragic earthquake in Haiti, make sure you’re not about to play the fool.

The World Trade Center attacks, the Asian tsunami, and hurricane Katrina all spawned countless scams designed to trick kind-hearted people into parting with their money, and Haiti’s devastation serves their purposes very well.

Please give, but don’t let your sincere desire to help people in need get in the way of common sense. Make sure your money goes where you intended. Don’t let yourself and your intended benefactors be the victims of a scam! Do your due diligence before acting.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) advises:

  • Do not respond to any unsolicited incoming e-mails, including clicking links contained within those messages.
  • Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as surviving victims or officials asking for donations via e-mail or social networking sites.
  • Verify the legitimacy of nonprofit organizations by utilizing various internet-based resources that may assist in confirming the group’s existence and its nonprofit status rather than following a purported link to the site.
  • Be cautious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files because the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
  • Make contributions directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf to ensure contributions are received and used for intended purposes.
  • Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions: providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.
  • Anyone who has received an e-mail referencing the above information or anyone who may have been a victim of this or a similar incident should notify the Internet Crime Compliant Center (IC3 via www.ic3.gov.

In an related story, an organization definitely worthy of support, Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), is asking that donations be made to its Emergency Relief Fund rather than to Haiti specifically, for some very valid reasons, posting the following on its website:

We are incredibly grateful for the generous support from our donors for the emergency in Haiti.

MSF has been working in Haiti for 19 years, most recently operating three emergency hospitals in Port-au-Prince, and is mobilizing a large emergency response to this disaster. Our immediate response in the first hours following the disaster in Haiti was only possible because of private unrestricted donations from around the world received before the earthquake struck. We are currently reinforcing our teams on the ground in order to respond to the immediate medical needs and to assess the humanitarian needs that MSF will be addressing in the months ahead.

We are now asking our donors to give to our Emergency Relief Fund. These types of funds ensure that our medical teams can react to the Haiti emergency and humanitarian crises all over the world, particularly neglected crises that remain outside the media spotlight. Your gift via this website will be earmarked for our Emergency Relief Fund.

If you wish to donate to the people of Haiti, the safest way is for you to contact a reputable organization yourself. (How to Help Haiti)

Resources to fact check charitable organizations:

CharityNavigator.org: Find a charity you can trust.

ScamBusters.org: Check on internet scams, identity theft, and urban legends.




UPDATE: How to Help Haiti

Clinton Bush Haiti Fund

Long-Term Health Problems Facing Haiti After Earthquake

Haiti in Chaos After Earthquake

Help Haiti: a Day Without Pay

Pat Robertson is Going to Hell 

Rescue Dogs Sent to Haiti from Around the World

Haiti After the Quake + How to Help

Animal Victims in Haiti Need Your Help

Haiti’s Hard Life: Analysis By Jared Diamond

How to Help Haiti


Haitian Earthquake Has Destroyed the Capital City   Mercy Corps

Haiti’s reconstruction by Haitians living aboard     For these noble goals, we ask that the government of the country in which we reside to task our pay check $10 per pay period for the next 50 years so that we can rebuild our dear Haiti.

Pat Robertson: APOLOGIZE

Support the UN’s Response to Haiti Quake Victims United Nations Foundation

Honor UN Peacekeepers in Haiti  Better World Campaign

Photo: CC BY 2.0 Creative Commons Flicker Photos/oneras


Jessica S.
Jessica S7 years ago

good 1, thank you

Nita O.
Nita O.7 years ago

Great article!!!!!!

Jacqueline Patino

It is good to warn people about scams. I want to tell you to donate as your heart tells you to, though, because all the money is very much needed. I donated for Haitian women, but it is not enough,

We need to understand women in Haiti are in the midst of a catastrophe. This is why I and Fundación Activa have initiated a PETITION TO TELL THE WORLD BANK AND UNIFEM to give US$50.- monthly, for three years, WITHOUT PAYBACK, directly to Haitian women. Sign the petition here, please:


We appreciate your cooperation with the brave Haitian women. Put a small amount of money in their hands, and watch the miracle happen.

Henriette M.

Tragedy strikes & the scum of the earth are there to loot on devastated, innocent, homeless, hungry, thirsty, despaired people who have lost every thing & no where to go. How low can you go, never cease to makes one wonder if they are even human, less have a conscience or a brain to begin with! I made my donation through; International Disaster Fund 2009 (hsi_intl_disaster_2009) I hope that I was OK with that one! I wish I had this info. then!

Mary P.
Mary P7 years ago

I like doctors without borders but I decided to sponsor a child through SOS Children's Villages. They had over 800 children waiting for sponsors before the earthquake -- can you imagine how many they are going to have now?! I wish I could help more than one.

poepiesnoepie k.
Past Member 7 years ago

Good post, serves as a warning that what you donated will not go in vain.

sonsydee E.
sonsydee E7 years ago

My donation went directly to Doctors Without Borders,Hero's on the ground from day one.I never open any email from scammers,they are the scum of the earth.I have lost count of how many emails I have recieved claiming I have millions of dollars waiting for collection etc....please give only to respected charities who are hands on in a situation such as Haiti.Doctors Without Borders do incredible work in the most difficult of places worldwide.They get my vote anyday.

gerlinde p.
gerlinde p7 years ago

i donated to doctors without borders.

Kristi O7 years ago

I too have ambiguous feelings about donating to the Red Cross (referring to comments mentioned above). I donated but not to them...as far as emails and calls, it is common sense to not donate over the phone to someone you don't know and to not click on suspect emails. It is too bad that in times of crisis the greedy rub their hands together and take full advantage of the situation.

Carole H.
Carole H7 years ago

thank you for the timely warning - funny how tragedies bring out the best and unfortunately the worst in people.