For a book project on evil I once undertook, I began with grappling with how to define evil. I concluded that “evil” is hurting an innocent other for one’s personal gain. I then developed an ordinal scale for evil (as in bad, evil, more evil, and most evil) and concluded that the most evil are those who:
- Derive not just profit, but emotional pleasure, in doing evil — that is, in hurting an other.
- Exploit (make use of) the other’s goodness to commit evil. An example of this is notorious serial killer Ted Bundy exploiting his victims’ goodness by using crutches to pretend he was disabled, so as to lure young women to “help” him load books into his car. He would then push the woman into the car, drive to a remote area where he raped and killed her (or in some cases, killed and raped her). Another example are those who defraud charity donors.
An article in the Reno Gazette-Journal of March 20, 2011, warns that scammers already are trying to take advantage of the outpouring of compassion following Japan’s earthquake and tsunami disaster. So be on the lookout for phony aid appeals.
One fraudulent scheme involves an email claiming to be from the British Red Cross and that asks recipients to make Japan aid donations via wire transfer, FBI spokeswoman Jenny Shearer said. Legitimate charities don’t make requests for wire transfers.
Here are a few tips to help you steer clear of scams and donate wisely to legitimate charities:
1. Be wary of online solicitations. Spam and email solicitations from charities claiming to be linked to relief groups are common after natural disasters. It’s better to go to your favorite charity’s website or call in your donation to ensure your money doesn’t go to the wrong place.
2. Do your homework. Check out the organization at sites for the Better Business Bureau, www.bbb.org; the Foundation Center, www.foundationcenter.org, a New York-based authority on philanthropy; or Charity Navigator www.CharityNavigator.org, an independent nonprofit organization that evaluates charities based on effectiveness and financial stability.
3. Watch out for phony names. Some bogus charities use names that sound or look like those of legitimate organizations to mislead you. For example, “foundation” in an organization’s name might be replaced with “association” or another word to confuse donors.
4. Examine Web addresses. Avoid sites that end in a series of numbers and be aware that most nonprofits have sites that end with .org, not .com.
5. Don’t pay in cash. It’s best to pay by check or money order, both in the interest of security and for your tax records. Make sure to address it to the full name of the charitable organization, not anyone acting on behalf of the charity.
6. Check with the charity. If you are dealing with a telemarketer who claims to be working on behalf of an organization, check with the charity to verify that it has authorized the solicitation.
7. Resist pushy demands. Do not send any money if the person seeking a donation uses high-pressure tactics, asks for cash payment or insists on sending someone to pick up your donation.
See also “7 Tips on Donating for Japan Disaster Relief.”