Natural Disasters Often Exploited by Hackers to Scam People Out of Money
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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) warns the public to beware of scams following the recent series of hurricanes that hit the United States. Cybercriminals use newsworthy events like hurricanes and other natural disasters to solicit money and steal banking information. People are tricked into giving financial contributions that supposedly aid hurricane victims and relief efforts. Rather than going to help those harmed by a hurricane, the money goes straight to the criminals.
Cybercriminals use a number of channels – email, websites, social media posts, chat apps, spam calls – to reach as many people as possible. They may send tens of thousands of malicious emails attempting to trick the reader into clicking on a link. The links send the reader to a harmful website that either steals passwords to financial accounts or steals their money.
The harmful websites may also be used to infect computers and devices with malware or ransomware.
Phishing emails are sent en masse with hurricane related subject lines and messaging. Recipients’ email addresses and names are bought online from other hackers. This week T-Mobile announced that over 50 million customers had their data stolen in a massive data breach. This is exactly how hackers get your personal information and exploit it in multiple online scams.
Some low-tech fraudsters are even bold enough to call on the phone or show up at your door to ask for money. The hackers may fake donations in the form of gift cards and credit card payments. These donations are pocketed by the criminals.
“Exercise caution in handling emails with hurricane-related subject lines, attachments, or hyperlinks. In addition, be wary of social media pleas, texts, or door-to-door solicitations relating to severe weather events,” warns CISA in their bulletin.
How to Protect Yourself from Scammers
- Always vet up a charity before giving any money or goods.
- Never click on any links in emails from people you don’t know
- Never download an email attachment if you were not expecting something to be sent to you
- Use a quality antivirus app to filter harmful emails and protect you from malicious websites
- Be wary of social media posts asking you to give to online collection sites.
When in doubt give to a well-known international organization like the Red Cross.