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When Crisis Strikes, Scammers Get To Work

Published: March 11, 2020 on our newsletter Security Fraud News & Alerts Newsletter.

Scams surrounding crisis situations may be as old as time itself. Taking advantage of those who look to help, such as with the recent wildfires in Australia, are a lure many cyberthieves can’t resist. Fundraising opens a door for hackers to create all types of fake identities, all to steal donations from those who give to provide relief for those in need. Over the years, we’ve learned that taking advantage of generosity is an unfortunate side effect when disaster strikes and humanity acts to help.

Scammers use any number of tricks to achieve their goals, no matter where in the world a crisis takes place. Fake fundraising social media pages, GoFundMe sites, business email compromise (BEC), texts, phone calls, and letters are all tools of the trade. Getting their hands on donations through any means, even pretending to be a victim of a disaster is not out of bounds for scammers.

Unfortunately, the scams get more sophisticated over time. One example involving BEC scams did not go unnoticed. Bogus emails were sent to a company’s suppliers, stating their bank was closed due to the natural disaster. “Alternative” bank accounts were offered by the scammers to help invoices get paid. Hackers also set email rules so that company employees were not copied on the emails and were not aware the bogus invoices were being sent.

Any crisis, whether in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world tugs at the heartstrings of the public at large. The crime of stealing donations meant to help is reprehensible to everyone but the scammers. Not only is aid kept from where it’s needed, but the good intent of donators is crushed when they find they’ve been scammed. It may also prevent help for future crises when givers lose faith in a charitable system. Government and other officials remind those who want to donate to thoroughly check into a charity to make sure it’s registered and legitimate. Also remember that if you’re in a department that deals with paying invoices or performing wire transfers, verify information if you get an unexpected notice of an account or payment address change.

Remember, however convincing a plea for donations may be, always do your homework before doing good.

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