When your heart is wide open, you’re vulnerable. It’s something scam artists know well, and they did, right on cue, begin preying on folks who wanted to help out in the wake of the Boston Marathon explosion tragedy.
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According to The Domains, an industry news site about online domain names, more than 125 such names relating to the Boston Marathon explosions have been registered since Monday—many disguised to look like money-raising charities but actually created for self gain.
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“We need to watch those to make sure they are only used by licensed and regulated charities,” wrote editor Michael Berkens, referring to new sites with names like 2013bostonbombing.com, bombsinboston.com, bostonattack.com and terrorinboston.com.
“Just minutes after the reports of the explosions hit the news, domain names related to the bombings were already registered and some parked by people looking to make money off the tragedy. While we don’t know every registrant’s intention, we do know historically that many of the domain names registered immediately after [a tragic event] were done to get traffic and make money parking domains or worse.”
A fake Twitter fund also surfaced and was suspended after asking for re-tweets in order to collect donations for victims. “For every retweet we receive we will donate $1.00 to the #BostonMarathon victims #PrayForBoston,” read the tweet sent by the Twitter account @_BostonMarathon.
In general, reports ABC Action News, you can avoid scams by avoiding unfamiliar websites, being wary of charities that solicit you directly, questioning charities with similar-sounding names (as with the fake “Boston Marathon” account), be skeptical of “cash-only” requests.
So what can you do to help? Plenty, actually. As far as donating money, a worthy recipient is the Red Cross, which can always use funds to help keep it well primed for disaster-relief missions. Another idea is to give to one of the 35 charitable organizations that Boston Marathon runners had chosen as their own recipients, from the Boston Arts Academy to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society; think of it as donating in a runner’s honor.
Other ways to do good (and follow in the footsteps of the many, many open-hearted people who have been performing random acts of kindness) include the following:
Stay In the Loop
Following #BostonMarathon on Twitter is a great way to stay informed, as far as where to help and find help. The live blog at Boston.com will keep you up-to-date with live news coverage, tweets, video feeds and information on where to help. And Reddit has threads both here and here filled with live updates on where and how to give or get assistance.
Make a Kind Gesture
The administrator of the 26 Acts of Kindness Facebook page, created after the Newtown shootings, is calling for people to send cards and words of support to folks in Boston, through his P.O. box. "The Boston community is in need of signs of love and support, and that's what we are all about. Please consider sending a card or hand written letter showing you care. These letters will be reviewed to make sure they are appropriate and then forwarded to the Boston community to pass out to whomever wants them," the page reads. "Together we can stand up for one another and spread love, not hate."
Offer Your Home
If you live in Boston and have space to offer a stranded runner or his or her family or friends, you can offer it on this specially set-up Google site. Alternately, if you are stranded and are looking for a place to stay, you can search for one here. Airbnb has also set up an urgent-help page for folks who are stranded; if you've got a space to offer, please list it there.
Report Crime Tips to the Police or FBI
If you have any information regarding the perpetrators in the crime, report them to 1-800-494-TIPS. Also, the FBI said it had set up 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324), prompt #3, for anyone who had information about or visual images of the explosions.
Follow Blood-Donation Instructions
The Red Cross has tweeted that there is "enough blood on shelves to meet demand," but that scheduling a time in the near future would be a good idea. Massachusetts General Hospital, meanwhile, has posted a Facebook message encouraging people to go to the hospital to donate as of 7:30am Tuesday.
Help Reunite Loved Ones
Though most people have already located loved ones at this point, here are a few ways to do so and help others do so just in case: The Red Cross has a "Safe and Well" page, on which you can either list yourself as safe and sound or search for the names of those you're concerned about. Google, meanwhile, has set up Person Find specifically for the Boston explosions. Also, Boston has set up a hotline for finding friends and family: 617-635-4500. Finally, you can text RUNNER to 345678 and you'll get a text back. You can then text back someone's bib number to get updates.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Mayor Tom Merino have just announced the formation of The One Fund to help people most affected by the tragedy, onefundboston.org.