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Disaster-related scams

Published: 25 Jan 2010 21:39:34 PST
Disaster scams include, but are not limited to, unsolicited e-mails or text messages requesting: a fee to locate family members/friends who may have been disaster victims; personal or financial information for the recovery of inheritance funds; and that monetary that donations be deposited in overseas bank accounts identified by the sender.

Basic safety tips

There have been cases where individuals have targeted families of disaster victims, via e-mail, and caused great distress. They were able to achieve this by using personal information that they found posted at disaster-related bulletin boards and other online message centers. The Internet is undeniably an efficient way to distribute and gather information globally and truly, the positive side of the Internet far outweights the negative (the minority of malcontents who prey on the innocent and the vulnerable). However, it is advisable to consider a few basic safeguards when using the Internet to co-ordinate disaster-related activities such as searching for relatives or appealing for information via electronic message centres.

In order to protect yourself from these scams, and others, we recommend that you:

  • Do NOT respond to unsolicited e-mails, IMs, text messages, phone calls, etc, from sources that are unknown to you.
  • Do NOT provide ANY personal\financial information, account passwords, PIN numbers, etc, to anyone whose affiliation with a known institution cannot be verified. Remember, it is the policy of most reputable businesses that they will NEVER ask for such information, without full verification as to the legitimacy of such a request. If in doubt, personally contact the requestor.
  • Contribute to KNOWN charities ONLY, by going directly to the organization’s Web site, rather than following links to “related” sites.
  • Verify the legitimacy and status of non-profit organizations, by using Internet-based government resources, or contacting local newspapers or television stations for information.
  • NEVER open e-mails or e-mail attachments from unknown senders.
  • Ensure that you have a reputable virus-detection installed and properly configured on your computer, and that it is updated regularly.


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