Doing good keeps getting harder

GCN Insider

No Starch Press, self-proclaimed publisher to the geek community, recently donated one of its books to a charity auction for the benefit of the FreeBSD Foundation. The publisher's will contribute the proceeds from the sale of the first copy of the second edition of 'Absolute FreeBSD: The Complete Guide to FreeBSD' by Michael Lucas.

The tax-exempt nonprofit foundation supports the FreeBSD software project, and the auction was part of its fall fundraising campaign. Sure, it's a second edition rather than a first edition, and the binding is RepKover rather than Moroccan leather, but the money went to a good cause if you are a supporter of open-source software.

At least, I think it did. In the same batch of e-mail messages containing the No Starch Press announcement was a warning about fraudulent charity auctions.

The folks at Websense, headquartered in San Diego, reported that while the recent spate of wildfires were still raging in that area, phony charity auction scams were popping up on the Web trolling for contributions.

It keeps getting harder to know whether you are a philanthropist or a sucker when you open your wallet to do a good deed, and high-profile disasters such as the California wildfires and Hurricane Katrina generate scams.

'Make sure you know who you are giving to,' said Dan Hubbard, vice president of security research at Websense.

'The problem is, fraudsters are getting good about setting up phone numbers and storefront addresses,' and it is getting harder to distinguish between the good guys and the bad. There is no simple solution to avoiding fraudulent charity scams, he said. The best you can do is remember, 'there is no free lunch; if it's too good to be true, it probably isn't; and err on the side of caution.'

So I checked out the No Starch-FreeBSD auction. It is genuine, and the foundation still welcomes donations.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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