Hurricane Harvey disaster relief scams

Posted on: August 28, 2017 | By: Christina Bonds | Filed under: Tech Tips, Info Security

NOAA’s GOES-East satellite captured this image of Tropical Storm Harvey over Texas on Aug. 27 at 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 UTC).

While Hurricane Harvey has slowly begun to subside, the storm’s destructive effects will continue to be felt across Texas and surrounding areas for years to come. Unfortunately, when natural disasters strike, malicious cyber scammers consider this a prime time to capitalize on those wanting to help disaster victims. Donating money to disaster relief charities and other help organizations can be helpful for victims in need, however please be aware of fraudulent emails asking for money or credit card information to protect yourself from cyber scams.

Emails requesting donations from deceptive charitable organizations may appear over the next several days, weeks, or even months. Fraudulent emails often contain links or attachments that are directed to malware-infected or phishing websites. Exercise caution when handling any email with a subject line, hyperlinks, or attachments related to Hurricane Harvey, even if it appears to come from a trusted source.  Verify the legitimacy of any email solicitation by contacting the organization directly using a trusted contact phone number.

Before giving to a charity, consider these tips advised by the Federal Trade Commission to avoid any charity or fundraiser that:

  • Refuses to provide detailed information about its identity, mission, costs, and how the donation will be used.
  • Won’t provide proof that a contribution is tax deductible.
  • Uses a name that closely resembles that of a better-known, reputable organization.
  • Thanks you for a pledge you don’t remember making.
  • Uses high-pressure tactics like trying to get you to donate immediately, without giving you time to think about it or do any research.
  • Asks for donations in cash or asks you to wire money.
  • Offers to send a courier or overnight delivery service to collect the donation immediately.
  • Guarantees sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a contribution. (By law, you never have to give a donation to be eligible to win a sweepstakes.)

If you’d like to help victims of Hurricane Harvey, check out this list of reputable organizations where you can get involved.

Tips for Email Security:

  • Do not click links in unsolicited email messages
  • Use caution when opening email attachments
  • Check out these articles on the Technology Blog to learn more about malware and email phishing schemes.


Image credit:  NASA/NOAA GOES Project

Christina Bonds

Christina Bonds

Christina Bonds, CISSP, is an Application Developer at Elon University

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