FBI warns of scams offering to help Chinese quake victims

Donors reminded to use legitimate Web sites for donations

The FBI is warning Americans looking to send donations in the aftermath of the massive May 12 earthquake in China to beware of a rising number of e-mail scams that tout "relief" efforts.

In an announcement Tuesday, the FBI said that some of the e-mail scams even offer "free vacation trips to the largest donors," while using fake logos of legitimate online pay services to steal money from unsuspecting donors.

Similar fake e-mail campaigns occur after every major disaster, including the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US, hurricanes Katrina and Rita, last year's Minneapolis Interstate bridge collapse and the recent cyclone in Myanmar, according to the FBI.

"The more awareness there is to these kinds of things, the better off we are so that people don't get lured in," said Paul Bresson, an FBI spokesman. "Whenever there is some tragic event, these scam artists come out to do their business. It may not be apparent to unwitting victims."

After hearing of such disasters, many people can be taken in by e-mails that purport to raise relief funds, Bresson said. "It may be the last thing on their minds that they are getting duped," he said.

E-mail recipients were reminded by the FBI to:

  • Never respond to unsolicited e-mails purporting to be about relief efforts.

  • Stay skeptical of anyone who claims that they are officially soliciting donations via e-mail.

  • Never click on links in an unsolicited e-mail because malicious software can be triggered to launch attacks on your computer.

  • Never click on attachments that purport to contain photos in attached files.

Go directly to established and well-known the Web sites of legitimate relief agencies to make donations. Don't rely on others to solicit donations and pass them on in your behalf. And use your Web browser to navigate directly to sites rather than clicking on links in unsolicited e-mails that could redirect you to illegitimate sites.

Never provide personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions.

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Todd R. Weiss

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