(But there are plenty more where he came from…)
It was, I suppose, inevitable that the earthquake in Nepal would provide an opportunity for scammers to capitalize on the misery of others. I haven’t been tracking this particular subcategory of scamming nastiness, but a pingback on one of my articles written in 2011 for the AVIEN blog about Japanese earthquake-related scams and hoaxes – actually, a link to some of the many articles relating to those scams – drew my attention to a blog by Christopher Boyd for Malwarebytes on Nepal-related scams.
In that article, the Nepal earthquake scam he highlights is a bizarrely-expressed donations scam message claiming to be from the weirdly named ‘Coalition of Help the Displaced People’:
We write to solicits [sic] your support for the up keep [sic] of the displaced people in the recent earth quack [sic] in our Country Nepal.
Appriver’s collection includes:
- A classic 419 claimed to be from one of the earthquake victims (daughter of a deceased politician – stop me if you’ve heard this story before…)
- Another giving the impression it’s on behalf of the Salvation Army and World Vision: who’d have guessed that big organizations like those would use Gmail accounts? 😉
- An exercise in guilt tripping from ‘Himalaya Assistance’ whose real purpose seemed to be to distribute a keylogger.
US-CERT also warns of ‘potential email scams’. As well as generic advice about mistrusting links and attachments and keeping security software up to date, the alert very sensibly advises the use of the Federal Trade Commission’s Charity Checklist. The FTC’s page includes sections on:
- Signs of a Charity Scam (including some heuristics that work with all sorts of types of contact, not just email)
- Charity Checklist (how to ensure your money is going where you intend it to go)
- Charities and the Do Not Call Registry
- Report Charity Scams
There are a number of ways of checking the bona fides of a charity, including Charity Navigator (http://www.charitynavigator.org/) and Charity Watch, formerly the American Institute of Philanthropy (http://www.charitywatch.org).
In the UK, GetSafeOnline also has a guide to protecting yourself from charity scams, including resources for checking the status of UK charities:
- Charity Commission for England and Wales
- Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator
- Charity Commission for Northern Ireland
- The Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB)
I’ll leave the last word to Chris Boyd, since I couldn’t agree more and couldn’t have put it any better:
Scammers riding on the coat-tails of disasters are the lowest of the low, and we need to remain vigilant in the face of their antics – every time they clean out a bank account, they’re denying possible aid to the victims of the quake and creating all new misery elsewhere. That’s quite the achievement…