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The recent Haitian earthquake has highlighted the need for caution when donating to charities, says A. Harrison Barnes, attorney and founder of “Because people are so willing to help in financial ways to those victims most in need, this also brings out the worse in human nature”, says Barnes; the worse in human nature being those who set up false charities in an effort to separate people from their money. Consumer protection lawyers are also seeing an increase in the number of clients wishing to recoup some of their losses due to the charity scams.

Unfortunately, scams such as what we’re seeing so many of are all too common during a disaster. Hurricane Katrina’s landfall in August 2005 along the Mississippi and Louisiana gulf coasts also saw an increase in illegal scams. In fact, many attorneys who had recently graduated law school and were considering which areas to specialize in chose this area of law because they were inspired to make a difference. Those lawyers had found their niche and continue to work to protect consumers.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations released guidelines in an attempt to curb the efforts of some of these scammers, “past tragedies and natural disasters have prompted individuals with criminal intent to solicit contributions for a charitable organization and/or a good cause” the memo reads. Not surprisingly, law firms across the country are recognizing the need to add to their staffs in their own efforts of making a difference. It’s not only the recent devastating earthquake they’re preparing to address, many recognize an ongoing and permanent need and are raising their staff levels to meet those needs., as part of its commitment of ensuring all available legal jobs are included in its database, has seen a spike in those career openings for lawyers who can meet the demand. Paralegals and legal secretaries are being sought after, too. Clearly, this is a growing problem in this country as evidenced by the job availabilities. In the meantime, A. Harrison Barnes makes these recommendations to those looking for a way to contribute money to the victims in Haiti:

  • Choose an established and respected charity such as the American Red Cross
  • Before you send money to a charity, do a quick check with the Better Business Bureau. It only takes a few minutes and can prevent you from losing your hard earned money.
  • Avoid responding to unsolicited emails and never click the links provided in those emails.
  • Never give out your credit card number to phone solicitors

The FBI goes on to say in its public memo that it began receiving phone calls within hours of the earthquake with reports of suspicious activity. This is significant because it appears scammers patiently stand by, awaiting the next tragedy anywhere in the world.

In the meantime, law firms will continue to seek out experienced attorneys who can make a significant dent in the efforts of scammers around the world. And surely, as evidenced by history, more lawyers will be inspired to focus on protecting consumers from such vicious and illegal activities.

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