As expected, the Katrina phishing scams are starting to roll. And the scams are more varied and more numerous than in past disasters, according to law enforcement officials and online watchdog groups.
FBI Officials say there have been more than 500 Web sites advertising Hurricane Katrina relief services. About 300 sites were established in a single day -- Friday. The tragic events of Katrina are also being used by virus writers to try to infect more machines. E-mail users have been increasingly receiving bogus e-mail that pretends to offer news updates about the tragedy that instead directs the user to a website that infects your machine.
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Federal authorities say the challenge is to quickly analyze and assess those sites which appear to be illegitimate and to develop a strategy to ascertain the responsible parties and ensure the safety of the public.
Law enforcement agencies offer the following tips to avoid falling victim to fraudulent money-gathering schemes:
Do not respond to unsolicited email messages. Legitimate charities will not typically send mass mailings or spam messages seeking donations.
Be careful of email messages offering to show pictures of the disaster areas in attachments; the files may contain viruses.
Go directly to the Web site of a recognized charity or aid organization by typing in its address (for example, RedCross.org), as opposed to following a link.
Never give credit card numbers or other personal financial information to telemarketers or in response to email solicitations. Ask for written info about the charity's programs and finances.
Never assume a charity is legitimate on the basis of its name. Many fraud artists will use a name that sounds good or is similar to that of a respected charity.
Be suspicious of anyone wanting on-the-spot donations or refusing to provide written, verifiable information on their group.