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nepal earthquake
Posted on May 4, 2015 by in Identity & Privacy, Personal

The tragic April 2015 earthquake in Nepal has inspired people around the world to donate toward relief services and medical aid. Unfortunately, the event is also a golden opportunity for charity scammers.

Whenever a large-scale natural disaster occurs, charity scams always seem to follow. For example, the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan in 2011 prompted countless scams — many within just a few minutes of the event. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security and aid agencies had to issue warnings for the public to be on guard against fraudulent fundraising messages.

Just a year before that event, Haiti’s major earthquake and Hurricane Katrina prompted thousands of “charitable donation” websites that sparked FBI warnings. The agency attempted to alert the public about charity scams early on, but it’s likely that the scammers still made off with quite a bit of cash that could have gone to relief efforts.

At this point, it looks like Nepal relief scams will follow a similar track. The Department of Homeland Security just released a warning about email scammers pretending to be from charitable organizations sending funds to Nepal. The scam emails often contain links or attachments that direct users to malware-infected websites that capture sensitive financial information.

How Can You Avoid Nepal Earthquake Scams?

In the wake of the Nepal tragedy, remembering the cycle of charity scams is important, especially for those who are ready to make a donation now. Avoid Nepal relief scams when sending money to a charity by keeping these protections in mind:

  • When you receive an email asking for aid, don’t click on any links or attachments in the message. If you’d like to donate to that charity, do the research first. Vetting the organization at the Better Business Bureau’s search website is a good place to start. And remember that while aid is needed immediately in Nepal, it will still be needed days, weeks and months from now. Don’t rush into giving without doing the necessary background checks.
  • Keep your anti-virus software up to date to prevent inadvertent clicks from exposing your system to malware.
  • Know the signs of a charity scam; the Federal Trade Commission has a very useful website on the topic, including instructions on how to report suspected scams.
  • Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations assist victims. The Better Business Bureau notes that all charities have fundraising and administrative costs. At a minimum, a credit card donation will likely involve a processing fee.
  • Don’t give credit card numbers or bank account information over the phone or by email. If the charity is legitimate, it will agree to send a pledge form by mail, giving you time to verify the organization isn’t behind a scam.

Be smart with your giving. Keeping charity scam tactics in mind can help ensure your donations go to those in need in Nepal — and not into the pockets of scammers.

Image courtesy of Jessica Lea/DFID.