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Scams Emerge as New Relief Threat

January 13, 2005

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With the outpouring of grief and financial relief has emerged a new threat to relief efforts in the wake of the Sumatra Tsunami: relief aid fraud. Scam artists have popped up around the world, in person and online, pretending to represent legitimate relief agencies like Oxfam and UNICEF but instead taking the money collected from unsuspecting donors for themselves.

According to Internet watchdog officials, one of the most popular of the current scams is a letter supposedly sent from a victim or a charity, asking for money. Like the American bank email scams that are currrently making the rounds, these scams ask people to input personal information like credit card numbers or bank account numbers and then empty those accounts of funds.

The reaction to such actions has been outrage, especially given the magnitude of the disaster and the relief needed.

Annie McGuire runs a website called, which tracks such scams. "I simply cannot list all the scams that will arise in the next several months," McGuire told the Associated Press. She warned Internet users to give only when they were sure that they were in contact with legitimate organizations.

But it is not only online where the scams are occurring. Many countries are hearing reports of people posing as relief workers going door-to-door in search of "donations," which they then put in their own pockets.

Relief officials are urging would-be donors to make sure that their money will be going to a legitimate organization.

Graphics courtesy of ArtToday

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