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E-mail fraud targets NYC relief donors


October 21, 2001

The subject line of the e-mail pleads, "Your support is needed."

When the message is opened, a window with the familiar logo of the Red Cross and photos of wide-eyed children pop up. It appears to be a donation request from the three largest fund-raisers for the Sept.11 terrorism relief effort: the American Red Cross, the United Way of New York City and the New York Community Trust.

Contributors are asked to type in their name, address, credit card number and other personal information and to send the form on to its charitable destination.

It's easy. It's also a scam.

None of the big three - the Red Cross, the United Way or the New York Community Trust - is soliciting Sept.11 funds via e-mail, officials have confirmed.

Rather, the e-mails sent to an unknown number of recipients in recent days are the latest Web scam, using the Internet to illegally carve off a chunk of the hundreds of millions of dollars that Americans and others have poured into Sept.11 relief funds.

"It's extremely deceptive," said Phil Zepeda, director of online media for the Red Cross, "and it preys on innocent people looking to make a very significant donation to national disaster relief."

Overall estimates vary, but online contributions appear to account for 15 to 25percent of the more than $1billion given to the relief effort, according to those who study philanthropy. The Red Cross says $60million of the $450million it has received has come via the Internet.

The Internet Fraud Complaint Center recommends that donors obtain Web site addresses separately instead of linking to them from e-mail messages. Web sites such as www.give.org list nonprofit organizations that have been approved by the Internal Revenue Service. If donors suspect fraud, they should contact their credit card company.

Source: www.charlotte.com

By JACQUELINE SALMON, Washington Post


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