Beware of Hurricane Harvey fundraising scams; cyber criminals target generosity of others, steal credit card information

The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) issued a warning on Monday morning, advising people to be aware of the so-called charitable organizations that are scamming people for donations to help with relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Scammers are targeting the kind hearts of people who want to help others who were affected by Hurricane Harvey, one of the most devastating tropical storms in history, that dropped more than 50 inches of water, flooding areas of Texas so severely that at least 30 people so far have died.

“Users are advised to exercise caution in handling any email with subject line, attachments, or hyperlinks related to Hurricane Harvey, even if it appears to originate from a trusted source,” US-CERT said. Fraudulent emails will often contain links or attachments that direct users to phishing or malware-infected websites. Emails requesting donations from duplicitous charitable organizations commonly appear after major natural disasters.”

CBS reports that there are legitimate donations sites available, such as the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund through the Greater Houston Community Foundation. The problem, however, is that phishers and scammers are getting creative with the fake fundraisers, to the point where people can be easily fooled into thinking they are donating to a legit charitable organization.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends that people verify the authenticity of charitable organizations through sites such as Charity Navigator and Guidestar. Go an extra step by verifying whether the organization is registered with the National Association of State Charity Officials.

Anyone who has been a victim to scams or knows of a fake organization, should contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud at (866) 720-5721.

“It’s heartbreaking to see people lose their lives, homes, and businesses to the ongoing flooding in Texas. But it’s despicable when scammers exploit such tragedies to appeal to your sense of generosity,” FTC consumer education specialist, Collen Tressler, wrote.

Visit Tressler’s FTC Consumer Information blog for additional tips on how to keep yourself protected from charity scams.

[Feature Photo: AP/Eric Gay]