Tsunami Scams Abound

Online and offline tsunami scams — what are the most important things to do to avoid getting scammed?

Within hours of the earthquake and tsunami that have already claimed more than 210,000 lives, tsunami scams began appearing online and offline.

Scammers posing as tsunami victims or their relatives are already using many different pitches to get people to give them money and to download viruses and trojans.

Types of scams:

1. Phishing scams: fraudulent websites have been set up pretending to be legitimate tsunami relief organizations. These sites request charitable donations, but in fact steal financial information and may be used for identity theft as well. Contributions go into the pockets of the scammers.

2. Variants of the Nigerian fee scam: unsolicited email (spam) is sent with the supposed purpose of retrieving large amounts of money tied up in areas devastated by the tsunami disaster.

3. Viruses and trojans: Spam is sent that includes photos of disaster areas or individual survivors, and these attachments contain computer viruses.

4. Fee-based spam: unsolicited emails offer, for a fee, to locate loved ones who may be disaster victims.

We are not surprised by these scams since the same thing happened right after 9/11, and after every major natural disaster since then.

To avoid getting scammed, here are the four most important things you can do:

1. Never respond to an email request for a donation — there is almost a 100% chance that it is a scam.

2. Check to make sure any charity is legitimate before contributing. You can read about how to do this on our page on charity scams.

3. Do not open attachments (including supposed pictures of disaster areas) — they may well include viruses.

4. Always use common sense.

FYI, we contributed via Amazon (100% of the money contributed via Amazon goes directly to the Red Cross South Asia Disaster Relief Fund — Amazon does not charge any handling fee).

You can send any fraudulent emails to the Internet Fraud Complaint Center.