Red Cross Collects $209 Million Online - InformationWeek

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Red Cross Collects $209 Million Online

More than half of the $409 million the American Red Cross has collected for Katrina comes from the Web.

In the eight days since the American Red Cross began collecting donations for Hurricane Katrina relief, it's gathered more than half of the $409 million total from the Web, the organization said Tuesday.

Approximately $209 million has come from Web donations, the Red Cross said.

The Red Cross has had a link on its home page for online donations since Monday, August 29. Portal and search giant Yahoo, which has been handling some of the overflow traffic when the Red Cross' servers are overwhelmed, had collected $50.7 million by mid-day Tuesday, while e-retailer Amazon had brought in $9.2 million. Both Yahoo and Amazon had also pitched in by taking donations for the Red Cross during the tsunami crisis in Southeast Asia earlier this year.

Last week the Red Cross also appealed to 700,000 former contributors via e-mail, and raised $4.5-million. A follow-up was mailed on Thursday.

In other Katrina-on-the-Internet news, the American Red Cross joined with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to launch a Web site where people can try to track down family and friends missing or separated after the disaster.

Dubbed "Family Links Registry," the site lets people search for and view already-entered descriptions of those who are sought, register to let relatives know where they are, or enter a missing relative in the database.

As of Tuesday, more than 105,000 people had registered at the site; another 45,000 had called the toll-free hotline (1-877-568-3317). Donated computers are being delivered to some shelters, said the Red Cross, so that evacuees can search for loved ones or register as safe and provide relatives with contact information.

Phishing scammers are also turning up the online heat regarding Katrina, said a security firm Monday. A new mass-mailed campaign directs users to an official-looking site that closely resembles the real Red Cross' donation page.

Some differences can be spotted, however, in the phishing site. While the real American Red Cross site includes links to information on non-online ways to donate -- such as by phone or by mail -- the bogus site has trimmed the choices to online only.

"This is not the first time we have seen immoral opportunists take advantage of a natural disaster to fill their pockets with money meant for victims," said Carole Theriault, a security consultant at Sophos, in a statement.

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