HURRICANE KATRINA RELIEF SCAMS
FBI Cyber Exec Warns of Online Schemers Exploiting
before Hurricane Katrina slammed into the
Gulf Coast of the U.S., fraudsters began
registering Katrina-related websites hoping
to profit from an anticipated outpouring
of charitable donations for storm victims.
How prevalent are these fraud schemes? What
are we doing to stop them? How can you safely
make donations online? For the answers to
these questions and more we talked with
our top cyber exec, Louis M. Reigel.
How widespread are Katrina-related online frauds?
Reigel: There are more than 4,000 Katrina-related
websites registered now, more than four times the
number we saw just last week. Many of them may be
legitimate, but fraudulent ones are popping up faster
than we can pound them down. We're seeing more scams
now than we saw after the Southeast Asian tsunami
last December. The complaints started rolling in
just a few days after Katrina made landfall. As
of this morning, we've received hundreds of Katrina-related
complaints from people all over the country.
What types of frauds are you seeing?
Reigel: Websites that spoof those of legitimate
charitable organizations to steal people's credit
card numbers, bank account information, Social Security
numbers, and other personal information. Phishing
e-mails, or spam, with links that redirect your
web browser to those spoofed sites. E-mails that
trick people into opening virus-laden attachments
under the guise that they're opening photos of the
hurricane damage. You name it--we're discovering
new tactics everyday.
What are we doing to stop these schemes?
Reigel: We're working several cases right now
based on the complaints we've received and from
investigating the fraudulent sites themselves. We're
working very closely with the American Red Cross,
which has been a primary target of these frauds,
to identify sites that are spoofing their site.
Through our Legats,
we're working with our foreign counterparts to track
down people who are running these scams from Eastern
Europe, Asia, and elsewhere. We've also partnered
with the Justice Department, Federal Trade Commission,
and other government agencies to form the Hurricane
Katrina Fraud Task Force, led by Assistant Attorney
General Alice Fisher, which is addressing all of
the frauds that have--unfortunately--resulted from
How can people make sure the donations they make
online are actually reaching the intended recipients?
Reigel: Be cautious in your giving.
Don't respond to any unsolicited incoming
e-mails requesting donations, even if they
look like they're coming from reputable
charitable organizations. Reputable charities
don't use spam to solicit donations. To
make sure your donation is going to a legitimate,
U.S.-based non-profit organization, type
the charity's web address directly into
your web browser. Be very leery of emails
with attachments, even if they're from someone
you know. And if you think you've been victimized
by one of these scams, file a complaint
with the Internet
Crime Complaint Center.
Special Report | E-Scams
courtesy of NASA.