Saturday, March 12, 2011

Beware Japan Earthquake Scams And Phishing Emails

The sad reality of life is that scammers will use any chance they can to bilk unsuspecting people from their money. With all the attention the earthquake and tsunami in Japan are receiving its likely that we'll see an influx of scams and phishing emails related to the incident. Meaning people truly wanting to help the victims of this sad incident need to take caution and be on the look-out for suspicious emails and websites. Below is some very useful information that should help keep you safe and keep your money out of the hands of scammers.

The Internet Storm Center (ISC) issued a warning on its Web page Friday morning warning readers to expect "emails (sp) scams and malware circulating regarding the recent Japanese earthquake."Examples of Tsunami-related spam have already shown up in spam filters, according to the Web site ISC warns users should avoid opening questionable attachments or clicking suspicious links within any unsolicited emails. Users looking to make donations via website should also been warned that scammers have become adept at using search engine optimization (SEO) strategies to place scam Web pages high in the search results of major search engines like Google.

You should always verify your links and double check the websites and web address before you donate. For instance users wanting to donate to the Red Cross should go directly to RedCross.Org. When you decide to donate make sure you are on a secure page. Look in the address bar for the HTTPS:// security protocol.

Here's a good list of reputable organizations accepting donations (via MSNBC):
  • Using your cell phone, you can text-message donations of $10 to the Red Cross. Text the letters REDCROSS to 90999 to make the $10 donation, or visit the organization's website.
  • The International Medical Corps is putting together relief teams, as well as supplies. The organization is in "contact with partners in Japan and other affected countries to assess needs and coordinate our activities,” said Nancy Aossey, IMC president, on its website. You can donate here. Or, you can text MED to 80888 to donate $10 to emergency relief efforts.
  • Save the Children is accepting donations for its Children's Emergency Fund. "We are extremely concerned for the welfare of children and their families who have been affected by the disaster. We stand ready to meet the needs of children who are always the most vulnerable in a disaster,' said Eiichi Sadamatsu of the organization in a statement. You can also text “JAPAN” or “TSUNAMI” to 20222 to donate $10.
  • GlobalGiving, based in Washington, D.C., is providing relief and emergency services to victims of the earthquake and tsunami. Text JAPAN to 50555 to donate $10.
  • The Salvation Army, which has had a presence in Japan since 1895, is sending an assessment team from Tokyo to the city of Sendai "to assess damage and will begin providing basic necessities (food, water, etc.) beginning as soon as possible tonight or tomorrow," a spokesperson said. In Tokyo, the Salvation Army "opened its main building to help shelter commuters who were unable to reach home. They served hot drinks and packed meals." You can text JAPAN or QUAKE to 80888 to make a $10 donation to the Salvation Army’s relief efforts.
  • World Vision, with a staff of 75 in Japan, focuses its relief efforts on children. Visit the website to donate, or call 1-888-56-CHILD (1-888-562-4453). You can text “4JAPAN” or “4TSUNAMI” to 20222 to donate $10.
  • The mGive Foundation, which helps with mobile donations, said these groups are also accepting text-based donations: Convoy of Hope, text TSUNAMI to 50555 to donate $10; World Relief Corp. of National Association of Evangelicals, text WAVE to 50555 to donate $10. "When prompted, mobile donors should reply with YES to confirm a one-time gift," the foundation says. "The $10 one-time donation will appear on the donor’s next mobile bill. All donations are tax deductible and receipts may be printed" from the mGive site. "Message and data rates may apply."
  • Facebook has a Disaster Relief page with lots of good information about organizations that are offering aid, and that you can help, in turn.
  • Portland, Ore.-based Mercy Corps  is "accepting donations to help survivors of Japan's earthquake and tsunami through our longstanding partner, Peace Winds Japan." Donations will go to meeting the "immediate and longer-term needs of the survivors," a spokesperson said. You can text “MERCY” to 25283 to donate $10.
  • Microsoft has a Disaster Response Effort underway. "We are taking a number of steps, including ensuring the safety of our employees and their families and proactively offering customers, partners and local response agencies technical support to help ensure business continuity," the company said. ( is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

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