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Beware of Scams That Exploit the Nepal Earthquake Disaster

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Cybercriminals love major disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, and air crashes. Such disasters give them the perfect opportunity to exploit the concern and sympathy of Internet users around the world.

The earthquake disaster in Nepal will likely be no exception. In the coming days and weeks, beware of scams that attempt to capitalize on the disaster.

Here we describe some of the ways in which scammers may try to use the earthquake to further their own nefarious goals.

Donation Scams

Various donation request messages may ask people to visit a website or fill in a form in an attached file to donate money to help bring aid to Nepal earthquake victims. At first glance the messages may seem legitimate and include logos and contact details for genuine charities.

However, the donation requests will be bogus. If you 'donate' via these fraudulent websites, you will be giving your credit card details and other personal information to criminals who can then use it to commit credit card fraud and identity theft. The money you donate will line the pockets of callous criminals. It will not be used to help earthquake victims.

Only donate via legitimate organizations such as the Red Cross. Before donating, make sure that you are on the organization's real website, not a replica created by scammers to steal your credit card data. Rather than click a link in an unsolicited donation email, it is safer to go directly to the organization's website via your web browser.

Malware Attacks

Emails or social media posts may claim that you can access news reports with more information about the earthquake by clicking a link. Some of the messages may appear to come from genuine news outlets such as CNN or the BBC. However, the links will open websites that contain malware.

If you click these links to visit one of the sites you may be tricked into downloading and installing malware in the belief that you are accessing news reports or video footage of the earthquake.

In some cases, the messages may try to entice you to open an attached file to read the supposed news reports. But, alas, the attachments will harbour malware.

Be wary of any unsolicited messages claiming to have news about the disaster. Rather than clicking links or opening attachments in such emails, it is safer to visit the website of the news outlet directly or perform a search via a news portal such as Google News. Any new or important information about the Nepal earthquake disaster is sure to be well covered by mainstream news outlets.

Survey Scams

Other scam messages, which are commonly distributed via Facebook, may promise 'shocking video' or 'breaking news' footage about the Nepal earthquake. Links in these posts will open bogus Facebook Pages that claim that you must share and like the post and participate in one or more online surveys before seeing the promised footage.

Via such ruses, users may be tricked into promoting the same scam message to their friends and generating revenue for the scammers. The scammers will earn commissions via dodgy affiliate marketing schemes each time a victim participates in a survey. Variants of these scams may attempt to trick people into installing rogue apps or malicious browser extensions.

Be wary of any 'news' message that claims that you must like and share material and participate in online surveys before you can see a promised video.

Don't cater to the callous and immoral criminals who exploit such human tragedies. Remain vigilant and don't get caught out by these scams. And, ensure that your friends and families are aware of such scams as well.



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Last updated: April 29, 2015
First published: April 29, 2015
By Brett M. Christensen
About Hoax-Slayer

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