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Haiti Earthquake Relief

Claim:   Messages provide information about contributions to earthquake relief efforts in Haiti.

MIXTURE OF TRUE AND FALSE INFORMATION:

TRUE: You can donate $10 to Red Cross earthquake relief efforts in Haiti by texting the word 'Haiti' to 90999.
 
FALSE: Phone companies have agreed to donate 25¢ towards relief efforts in Haiti every time a text message is forwarded.
 
FALSE: Facebook has agreed to donate towards relief efforts in Haiti every time a certain message is posted as a member's status.
 
FALSE: UPS will ship any package under 50 lbs. to Haiti for free.
 
FALSE: JetBlue and American Airlines are offering free air travel to Haiti for doctors and nurses.
 
TRUE: T-Mobile is allowing its customers to phone Haiti without being charged for international long distance calls.

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, January 2010]

This is currently making the rounds on Facebook posts..."Please donate: Text "HAITI" to 90999 and $10 will be given automatically to the Red Cross. Or text "yele" to 501501 to donate $5 to Wyclef Jean's group." Any truth to this at all? An if so, where is the money coming from for the donation, my phone bill?
 

Is it true that when you txt "Haiti" to 90999 that the phone company will keep half of the $10 you are intending to be donated to the Red Cross?
 

Here is what a friend posted on Facebook:

"Wyclef Jean, who is from Haiti, has an organization that helps....looks like he has already left for Haiti...here is the info...To donate $5 to the Yéle Haiti Earthquake Fund, text "Yéle" to 501501 (the amount will be charged to the person's cell phone bill) or visit Yele.org and click 'Donate.'"
 

I received a forwarded text message concerning the relief effort for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. It reads:"After the tragic Earthquake that striked Haiti on Tuesday phone companies have agreed to donate 25 cents everytime this MSG is forwarded. Don't be selfish."
 

This status is being tracked, the owners of facebook have confirmed they will send $1 to the rescue fund for the Haiti earthquake disaster for everytime this is cut and paste as a status. You only have to leave it for a minimum of 1 hour. Lets all do our bit to help
 

I've seen a rumor on Twitter and Facebook that UPS is offering free shipping to Haiti from its stores for any package that's 50 lbs or less.
 

Keep seeing this info on Twitter and elsewhere that purports American Airlines is offering free flights to Haiti for doctors and nurses. American Airlines publicly suspended all commercial flights to Haiti due to the earthquake, but are they offering to transport medical personnel for the purpose of the relief effort? Below is an example of the tweet making the rounds.

"American Airlines is taking doctors/nurses 2 Haiti 4 free. Please call 212-697-9767. Spread word."
 

I have called my cell phone carrier (T-Mobile) and they are confirming that all calls made to Haiti will be free calls untill Jan. 31.
 

Origins:   A magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti near Port au Prince on 12 January 2010, and early reports indicate that "many schools, hospitals and other buildings have collapsed, adding more suffering to an already impoverished nation, the poorest country in the western hemisphere."

As Cheryl Mills, Counselor and Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, posted on the U.S. Department of State's blog, persons in the U.S. who are interested in immediately helping with relief efforts in Haiti can make $10 contributions to the Red Cross International Response Fund for that purpose by texting the word "HAITI" to the number 90999. Callers
should note that the $10 donations will be charged to their cell phone bills — it is not the case that some other charitable organization will donate $10 to the Red Cross for every person who texts "HAITI" to 90999. It is not true that phone companies keep half the monies donated in this manner — the full amount of each $10 donation is passed through to the Red Cross for Haitian relief.

Haitian native Wyclef Jean of the Fugees has also asked those interested in helping to text the word "Yele" to the number 501501, which will automatically make a $5 donation (also charged to the caller's cell phone bill) to the Yéle Haiti Earthquake Fund.

Other text message donation mechanisms for Haitian relief include:
  • Text the word "HAITI" to 20222 to donate $10 to the Clinton Foundation Haiti Relief Fund.
  • Text "HAITI" to 25383 to donate $5 to the International Rescue Committee.
  • Text "HAITI" to 85944 to donate $10 to the International Medical Corps
It is not true that phone companies have agreed to donate 25¢ towards Haitian relief efforts every time a particular text message is forwarded, or that Facebook will contribute $1 every time a particular bit of text is reposted as a Facebook status. Such messages are just another iteration of a long-running form of Internet hoax. (Facebook has, however, established a Global Disaster Relief page to help the public find information on legitimate fund-raising organizations.)

Additional messages spread via Twitter and Facebook state that UPS is offering free shipping to Haiti for packages of 50 lbs. or less. This is not accurate. Although the company is contributing more than $1 million in cash and support to earthquake relief efforts in Haiti, it is not, as noted in its blog, providing free delivery of parcels to that country:
On Twitter, some have mistakenly shared a rumor that UPS will ship for free any package under 50 lbs. to Haiti. The destruction of roads and communications networks means our own shipping services to Haiti are on hold. Rather than offer free shipping to individual donors, UPS directs its aid through relief agencies.
The rumor that JetBlue and American Airlines have offered to fly doctors and nurses to Haiti for free is also false:
"Last night's hoax on Twitter about American and JetBlue flying doctors and nurses to Haiti for free was just that — a hoax. We don't know who is responsible, but it's a very low thing to do," American Airlines spokesman Tim Smith said.

A spokeswoman for JetBlue said the airline is flying relief workers from agencies such as the American Red Cross free of charge to Santo Domingo in the neighboring Dominican Republic, but only after they have been vetted by the Haitian Consulate. The consulate then arranges transportation for passengers from Santo Domingo to Port-au-Prince, she said. "We're not offering free transportation for just any doctors who walk up and want to fly there."
According to a T-Mobile press release, that company is temporarily allowing their customers to phone Haiti without being charged for international long distance calls:
For current T-Mobile customers who are trying to connect with loved ones in Haiti during the aftermath of the country's devastating earthquake, T-Mobile USA is enabling phone calls to Haiti without charges for international long distance through January 31, 2010, and retroactive to the earthquake on January 12, 2010. Additionally, T-Mobile customers who may already be in Haiti will be able to roam on T-Mobile's partner networks in Haiti (operated locally in Haiti under the names Voila and Digicel) free-of-charge through the end of the month. In both cases, T-Mobile will remove these charges from customer bills accordingly.
Anyone wishing to provide additional donations or assistance to Haiti should contact the Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI).

Last updated:   16 January 2010

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Sources:

    Choney, Suzanne.   "Mobile Giving to Help Haiti Exceeds $7 Million."
    MSNBC.com.   14 January 2010.

    Griggs, Brandon.   "Twitter Hoax Spreads Rumors of Airlines' Free Flights to Haiti."
    CNN.com.   14 January 2010.

    Nakashima, Ryan.   "Groups Raise Doubts About Wyclef Jean's Charity."
    The Washington Post.   15 January 2010.

    Pepitone, Julianne.   "Twitter Mobilizes Haiti Aid Efforts."
    CNN.com.   13 January 2010.

    Associated Press.   "Wyclef Jean's Tweeting for Haiti Galvanizes Web."
    13 January 2010.

    CBC News.   "Canadians Unable to Text Donations to Haiti."
    13 January 2010.

    USA Today.   "Stunned Haitians Stacking Victims by Fallen Homes."
    13 January 2010.