Scams Targeting Donors to Tsunami Relief Efforts

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Internet crooks are sending phony e-mails to Internet users to either solicit donations or to get personal information for identity theft.

Internet users who want to help victims of the Tsunamis are being targeted by crooks via e-mail.

"We’re starting to see phony emails asking for financial support for victims of the terrible tsunami waves in South Asia," according to Rich Buhler, founder of, a site that researches Internet stories, hoaxes, and urban legends.

"We urge anyone who receives an email asking for donations for relief activities to not respond to the email address or to click any link in the email even if it seems to have come from a respected relief organization," said Buhler.

He said that the safest way to help the tsunami victims is to give direct donations to trusted relief organizations such as by check, by the organizations’ web sites, or to call them and make a donation over the telephone.

"There are a couple of kinds of scam emails," according to Buhler. "One is from phony organizations, usually foreign ones, who are looking for money. The other is from crooks who are not so much interested in trying to get a donation as they are wanting your credit card number and other personal financial details," said Buhler.

"In other words, identity theft," he added.

One of the most common scams on the Internet has become known as "Phishing." It is the use of email to try to convince the recipient that a bank or other financial institution such as PayPal is going to close an account unless the personal financial information is confirmed or updated. In Phishing, the email appears to be coming from a trusted financial institution, but is not. It’s from crooks who are tricking people into revealing bank account numbers, passwords, PIN numbers, and credit card information.

"It’s the same with some of these donation scams," said Buhler. "That’s why it’s important that even if the email seems to come from a known organization, don’t click the link in the e-mail. Go to that organization’s web site instead and bypass both the email address in the e-mail or any other link or contact information."


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Rich Buhler