Is Texting 90999 to Donate to the RedCross a Scam? (OK Tornado Update)

Personal finance and bankruptcy protection news:

Moore, Oklahoma Tornado Donation

Update: 5/21/2012 In the wake of yesterday's massively destructive and deadly tornado that left dozens missing and dead in and around Oklahoma City, folks are once again hearing about the 90999 shortcode. This number is operated by the Red Cross and allows you to easily donate to the disaster relief effort using your cell phone. By texting REDCROSS to the number "90999", a $10 donation will be made to the Red Cross, which will show up on your next cell phone bill. This number was created by the Red Cross, and is the only official number that will send funds directly to the Red Cross. Texting money to any other number could result in additional fees or other unwelcome charges. You can also visit www.redcross.org to make a donation right now. Our hearts are with those affected by this disaster.


Update: 11/2/2012 Following the devastation along the east coast caused by Super Storm Sandy, the Red Cross is once more publicizing its 90999 shortcode. Text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross disaster relief fund and contribute to the clean up in New Jersey and New York. The $10 charge will appear on your next cell phone bill.

Japanese Earthquake Relief

Update: 3/17/2011. Following last week's disastrous earthquake in Japan and tsunami felt throughout the Pacific Rim, the Red Cross has once again been publicizing its 90999 shortcode. You can text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross' disaster relief fund. The charge will be added to your next phone bill.

Haiti Earthquake Updates

Update: 1/20/2010. As aftershocks continue to do damage in Haiti, help is still desperately needed. There's still some confusion on how to donate. Here's what you can do:

  • Send a text with the word Haiti in the message. The recipient should be the five-digit number 90999. You should receive a confirmation response. Reply Yes. $10 will be added to your phone bill
  • Log on to RedCross.org to make a donation online via credit or debit card (minimum $10) or find a Red Cross location near you.

Watch out for scams that ask you to send your credit card information over text message as well as web sites that prompt you to download software.

In the wake of the traumatic 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti Tuesday evening, an outpouring of support has been heard across cyberspace. And thanks to developments in technology, donating to important and topical causes is easier than ever. But could a text of support really find you victimized by a scam?

Right now, there are two legitimate ways to donate to Haitian support and relief organizations:

  • Text 'HAITI' to 90999: This service was set up by the U.S. State Department. Texting "HAITI" to the number will donate $10 to the International Red Cross, and will appear as a charge on your wireless bill.
  • Text 'YELE' to 501501: This will donate $5 to Yele Haiti, a non-profit organization founded by singer and Haiti native Wyclef Jean. A donation to Yele will also appear as a charge on your cell bill. You can also donate larger amounts at Yele's website.

So far, these are the only two legitimate text-to-donate services providing support to Haiti relief, according to consumer watchdog groups. But others may be popping up to take advantage of Americans' generosity.

BBB Warns of Scammers Using Tragedies to Rip Off Consumers

The Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission have issued statements warning possible donors to watch out for scams, which tend to pop up after a catastrophe.

The five-to-six digit numbers known as short-codes make it difficult to tell who is on the receiving end of a text. A legitimate charity will not ask you to send your personal information or credit card number through text message.

The devastating earthquake that struck Haiti, the western hemisphere's most impoverished nation, Tuesday hit 10 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital and largest city. Haiti's prime minister has issued a statement that hundreds of thousands may have perished in the quake.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 13th, 2010 at 3:00 pm and is filed under Identity Theft. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

21 Responses to “Is Texting 90999 to Donate to the RedCross a Scam? (OK Tornado Update)”

  1. Kyle says:

    Texting “Haiti” to 90999 to donate $10 cost me $27.34. I have unlimited texting, but the donation somehow accesses globalgiving.org and Sprint charged me $17.34

    That’s the last time I donate via texting.

  2. Dave says:

    For goodness sake people. Don’t text any money. If you want to give then contact a charity. Leave the texting alone and avoid all the problems.

  3. Thomas says:

    It’s not a scam. I work for a non-profit and we accept donations via text. For those getting the wrong message, you are sending the text incorrectly. The keyword (e.g., HAITI) should be the body of the text message – similar to e-mail. The shortcode (90999) should be the number you text the keyword to. 90999 is a shared shortcode across many charities that have been approved by the Mobile Giving Foundation or The Mgive Fund (both 501c(3) non-profits). These foundations work with the carriers to ensure that the donations are for legit charities and govern the process since the carriers do not take any of the donation. 90999 is just one shortcode used for donations. Check out http://www.mobilegiving.org or a list of charities and the shortcode they are using. Once you make a donation via text message, you can opt-in to receive further messages but you won’t receive any messages unless you opt-in. The great thing about mobile is that you must opt-in to receive anything – a measure to keep the channel spam free.

    Obviously you don’t have to donate through this channel but do some research before stating 90999 and other legit donation methods are a scam. Yes, we must be careful but the mobile is a new channel to make quick and easy donations and actually make a difference.

  4. megan says:

    I texted to 90999 and I haven’t gotten a text back asking? it’s been an hour.

  5. Diverden says:

    ever since I texted and donated, I’m getting texts from solicitors like never before…anyone else ???
    Is someone selling our cell phone numbers ????

  6. m.e. says:

    i just texted HAITI TO 90999. It asked me to confirm by texting back YES. Once i did that it texted me “reply YES to receive the latest Red Cross news” also I could text STOP to end msgs. i txted STOP and received confirmation that I would receive no further texts or charges other than the one time $10 donation. Total time: 2 minutes.. Easy.. If you feel worried about it then just log on to the Red Cross page and make a donation there. :)

  7. Sandi Russell says:

    A friend sent a text to HAITI90999 instead of putting Haiti in the text body. She received a message saying ‘thank you for contacting NCA. you will be notified if you win.’
    Does she need to change her number?

  8. Chris Kramer says:

    Hey NH, the article you referenced is talking about web sites pretending to offer information that compel visitors to install spyware. Texting HAITI to 90999 is definitely not a scam, and has resulted in millions of dollars being donated to the Red Cross.

  9. Chris Kramer says:

    Hey Tom, as the article points out, texting HAITI to 90999 is not a scam. However, there are several ways that scammers are taking advantage of the situation, including similar texting schemes as well as online ones. This article was written to inform potential donors that there is no harm in donating via this method. Thanks for your feedback.

  10. Tom Jackson says:

    The people that write about scams in charity should read a little about what they are talking about. These funds are not scams, they are trying to help the people of Haiti. When we search the number to text on Google this stupid page comes up so people dont know if they should donate. HELP THESE PEOPLE AND IF TEXTING IS THE SAFEST WAY FOR YOU TO DO IT THAN HELP!! It isnt going to charge you monthly, it is going to charge you once. These are not scams just stupid writers like this are just a debt to the American and World community.

  11. NH says:

    Um sorry but the 90999 is a scam too.

    http://blogs.computerworld.com/15414/anatomy_of_a_haiti_texting_scam

    The fact you are getting messages back might mean you are being charged for each of those times. Better call your phone carrier and change your number quickly!

  12. Miranda Guidry says:

    I text to the number but now it wont stop sending me texts even though i replied stop. how do i get it to stop?

  13. Chris Kramer says:

    Mark, after confirming your donation, you should be able to reply “STOP” to any texts to take yourself off the distribution lists.

  14. Mark says:

    And in the mgive terms “and you’ll receive up to 1 text per day from our advertising partners” (paraphrased).

    No thanks, keep your spam to yourself. Similar to email naivety of 15-20 years ago, once your number is out there and starts to be shared, it’ll will be virtually impossible to regain control of it, leaving a number change as the only response.

  15. rick says:

    thats not true james. its a one time charge. see link for details

    http://www.mgive.com/Partners.aspx

  16. james says:

    the service did not let me cancel my donation, and listed it as a $10/month bill on my telephone bill from a 3rd party. A representative from my phone service had to cancel it manually and blacklist the number.
    I’d avoid.

  17. James says:

    I hope the cell phone co. will not collect
    sales taxes on the donations.

  18. Becca says:

    I heard that when you donate $10 you are actually being charged $20. Is this true?

  19. Mike Amoruso says:

    Hi Scott, Chris is right – ALL text donations are one-time. Recurring donations via text are currently impossible.

  20. Chris Kramer says:

    Hey Scott, I believe that every time you text to donate, you will be charged $10 (plus any usage fees from your provider). And you can text as often as you like to donate.

    I don’t believe there is a recurring charge from the Red Cross or any other legitimate organization. However, you may be put on their distribution list to receive texts in the future, but you should be able to reply ‘STOP’ to these to be removed from the list.

  21. Scott says:

    will this be a reacuring monthly charge on the cell bill? or just the one payment per text, i wish this would be clarified somewhere on the web.