Date registered: Dec 2004
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RE: Donation For Tidal Waves
Be carefull where you donate.
Online scams emerge in tsunami's wake
Published: January 5, 2005, 4:15 PM PST
Scam artists are posing as tsunami victims on the Internet in a bid to divert some of the millions of dollars flowing to relief efforts, security experts warned on Wednesday.
Crudely written appeals for help have begun to appear in e-mail inboxes, asking for donations through a Web site or an offshore bank account, the analysts said.
"It's only a matter of time before...we have fully fledged Web sites that spoof well-known charities, for example," said Paul Wood, chief information security analyst at MessageLabs, an Internet security company.
Aid organizations have collected millions of dollars through the Internet since a tsunami claimed an estimated 150,000 lives from Indonesia to Africa on Dec. 26. Online retailer Amazon.com alone has collected $14.4 million for the American Red Cross through its Web site.
Similar scam attempts surfaced after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.
"It's a good opportunity for the criminals out for a quick buck, and it's something that people are going to respond to," said Forrester Research analyst Jonathan Penn.
The fraudulent appeals are patterned after two existing scams: "phishing " attacks that direct people to legitimate-looking Web sites in order to trick them into giving up their credit card numbers, and 419 scams, messages that promise great riches in exchange for a bank account number.
One message provided to Reuters asks for help freeing up a bank account in the Netherlands, a common 419 tactic. Another claims to be from a small village in Indonesia but asks recipients to route donations through a bank account in Malta.
"We have been rendered homeless and have lost all we have in life...We will be very grateful if you can assist us with any amount of money to enable us to start a new lease of life," the message says.
Ken Dunham, malicious code intelligence manager for the Internet security company iDefense, said such scams can be very effective.
"It's a get-rich-quick thing, and it makes perfect sense in light of the disaster. Everybody's heard of it, they all know lots of people have died off, maybe whole families have died off, and monies truly are available," Dunham said.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said it has received no complaints about tsunami relief scams so far. The agency urged donors to contact legitimate aid organizations and disregard phone and e-mail solicitations.
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