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From MSNBC:

The urge to help — and to give money — is powerful following a devastating event like Haiti’s earthquake, and one of the easiest ways to do it is online. It’s also one of the easiest ways to get scammed if you’re not sure what you’re doing or who you’re dealing with.

Click here to find out how you can support Haitian earthquake victims.

The FBI, Better Business Bureau and software security companies Wednesday all warned Internet users to exercise caution before opening their wallets to organizations claiming to be charities that will send financial assistance to Haiti.

“Apply a critical eye,” said the FBI in a statement, and do “due diligence before responding to those requests.”

Security software company Symantec says it typically starts seeing spam and phishing e-mails seeking money, “donations” or access to bank accounts about 24 to 48 hours after after news of a major tragedy such as Haiti’s.

And it’s not just e-mails that need to be closely monitored. It’s social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, as well as fake Web that sites can pop up as fast as the news itself. There’s also the problem of “search engine poisoning,” which “we’re seeing limited examples of already” in the quake’s aftermath, said Joris Evers of McAfee security software.

Click here to read more. To learn how to avoid being scammed, check out these tips from the FBI:

  • Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) 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. [SOURCE: Federal Bureau of Investigation]

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