Columbia, SC, April 19, 2013 -- It took only a few hours for a phony Twitter account claiming to be collecting donations to be set up after the Boston Marathon bombing. Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns that it would not be surprising to find scams popping up after the devastating explosion in West, Texas, on April 17, 2013.
“It’s unfortunate that scammers prey on consumers’ sympathies after a tragedy like the West, Texas, explosion in order to swindle consumers,” said Jim Camp, President and CEO of the BBB Serving Central SC and Charleston. “Scams could range from questionable charity appeals to phony websites, emails, social media accounts or messages, and even to home or business repair scams.”
The fake Twitter account had a name almost the same as the official Boston Marathon account and promised to donate $1 to victims for each retweet. The deception was uncovered and the account was suspended – after thousands of retweets.
In another case, scammers sent emails claiming to include a link to video of the Boston bombing. Clicking on the links went to a video but also downloaded malware intended to infect computers with a virus.
BBB offers these tips:
- After a disaster, scammers rush to set up websites and social media accounts seeking donations, or claim to channel donations to well-known charities. But donations may not go where they claim, and individuals and charities named on the sites may not have given permission.
- Contact charities directly through a website or phone number you obtain independently. Find out about the organization’s activities and how to donate. Beware of high pressure to give or appeals that are heavy on emotions but short on specifics about what the group is doing. Check out charities with BBB Wise Giving Alliance and find tips on giving at www.give.org.
- Remember that the community’s needs will be ongoing, and your contribution will be appreciated as much later as right away. You can take time to find out about charities and think about the causes you want to support.
- If you are donating items, make sure the organization collecting the goods has verified that the goods are actually needed and can deliver the items. You may want to consider a donation of money instead. Disaster relief organizations usually need cash to buy what’s needed and get it where it can be used.
Phishing, Smishing, and Spoofing
- Watch out for phishing emails that claim to be from a well-known charity seeking donations to help victims, or phony emails offering a link to video. If you click on a link or download, you could find that you’ve turned over sensitive personal information or downloaded malware that would harm your computer.
- Phony text messages, sometimes called “smishing”, could seek donations or offer a link to information. Clicking on the link could lead to a page where personal information would be collected for identity theft. Or exorbitant charges could be added to your phone bill.
- Scammers can “spoof” the number or name that appears on caller ID to make it appear that a charity is calling. Scammers could set up phony social media accounts to collect donations or personal information.
To learn more about scams, or to report a scam, see BBB Scam Stopper, www.bbb.org/scam.