From NBC's Pete Williams
The FBI says the number of complaints about fraudulent claims to help with Haiti charitable contributions is quite small -- much lower than during Katrina or the Indonesian tsunami.
As of today, the FBI's tracking center has received only a few dozen complaints.
Why so little fraud this time? Two possible explanations:
First, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies were way out in front with warnings about how to spot potential scams. (An almost certain sign of a fraud, the FBI says, is an e-mail that solicits a contribution by asking the recipient to click on a link, which turns out to be a fake look-alike of a real charity.)
Second possibility: the relatively new texting method for contributions. The Red Cross has a program for cell phone users to contribute $10 for Haiti relief by texting the word HAITI to 90999. Because the $10 is charged to the customer's bill by the cell service provider and passed on to the Red Cross, there's no way for scammers to directly hit up cell phone customers. The need to set up a payment arrangement with the phone company eliminates an avenue of fraud.
The only charity scam arrest the FBI knows of came over the weekend. Investigators say a Detroit-area man with a history of pretending to be an FBI agent was telling people that he might be deployed there and was collecting money to "for the children of Haiti." Agents say Kevin Balfour admitted collecting several thousand dollars. (Agents say he also used a fake FBI badge to get free food and drinks from a local bar.)