The Antigua and Barbuda Red Cross Society is expressing concern at the number charity groups that have been formed to receive aid on behalf of Barbuda.
Michael Joseph, president of the society told OBSERVER media, yesterday that whenever there is a disaster unscrupulous people use the opportunity to commit fraud against those who genuinely want to help.
“Times like these people utilise the opportunity to take advantage of the good will of the public. As a matter of fact, a gentleman called me saying someone came to his restaurant and told him he wanted food to take to persons in the shelters when the government had already made provisions for that,” Joseph said.
“The public have to take personal responsibility and do their research before they make a donation. Don’t be afraid to request a letter or contact information from anyone who comes to collect anything on behalf of the Barbudans.”
Sudden and vivid destruction of life and property are often compelling forces that prompt people into action to help those who are adversely affected by crisis.
Clinical psychologist Helen Brodie, told the OBSERVER media, that the overwhelming outpouring of support is as a result of people’s innate empathic traits and persons appealing for donations should capitalised on this willingness to give while the disaster is fresh in everyone’s mind.
However, Kem Warner, Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Fraud specialist said residents should be on the lookout for fraudsters who exploit disasters for their personal gain.
“You have individuals who go about creating bogus companies, accounts and websites in an effort to solicit contributions to help victims. And the sad part of it is whenever you commit this type of fraud you are increasing the number of victims by defrauding those in need and those who have given out of the goodness of their hearts,” Warner said.
He added that even though disaster fraud might be among the most immoral of financial crimes, it is an unfortunate reality in a post disaster environment like ours.
“It comes with a sense of selfishness on the part of individuals or organisations doing this. A lot of them are opportunistic, exploitative and suspicious in nature.”
Asserting that people can protect themselves from this type of criminality by doing thorough background research before making donations, Warner stressed, “Make sure you conduct effective due diligence on individuals and organisations [that are] requesting donations and you should only donate to groups with track record of proper ethics and morality.”
(More in today’s Daily Observer)