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Internet fraud alert – Alaska crash prompts fundraising warning

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NEW YORK – Two Web sites seeking to raise money after the Alaska Airlines crash are so questionable that charity watchdog groups are warning about the dangers of donating money online.

“Disasters bring out the worst in a few people and the best in most people,” Dan Langan, a spokesman for the National Charities Information Bureau, told the Associated Press. “No matter how you might feel that you have to do something, you have to know exactly who you are giving to.”

Alaska Airlines reported that at least two sites soliciting donations are suspected to be fraudulent because one distributed a computer virus and the other collected Social Security numbers. The sites closed down after the airline threatened to file suit.

The only site sanctioned by Alaska Airlines for donations to families of passengers and crew killed in the crash of Flight 261 is http://www.alaskaair.com/, which is being handled by a trained team of employees to support the victims and their families, according to a press release.

Flight 261 plunged into the Pacific off California on Jan. 31, killing all 88 people aboard.

The National Charities Information Bureau, which has been reviewing soliciting groups since 1918, recommends would-be donors, online or off, ask charities for written information about the name of the organization, its purpose, how much of each dollar is used for charity and how your donation will be spent.

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