Japan Earthquake, Tsunami Remind Us: Give Carefully

Red Cross supplies being shipped to Japan for earthquke relief
Red Cross supplies being shipped to Japan for earthquke relief

Human disasters like the Japan earthquake tend to bring out the worst in people.

If there is any fraud as old as humanity, it may be a scam of compassion. The crippled, the wounded, the widow hunched over in her black cloak in the middle of Rome's ancient wonders: are they really who they seem to be? Or, once they've taken your money, will they spring up and run off to buy a Big Mac or set up their next victim? Likely as not, it's the latter, and every time an enormous catastrophe like Friday's earthquake and tsunami in Japan comes around, the outpouring of human compassion can just as easily be swept up by fraud.

Immediately after the earthquake that devastated Haiti, for instance, so many donation scams cropped up that the FBI issued an official warning against them. It's the usual warnings: don't respond to unsolicited emails. Don't click on links contained in emails from people you don't know. Don't give personal information to someone soliciting money, and always go through an organization -- and you should type the URL into your address bar yourself, if you're donating online -- not an individual.