It seems like after every national disaster a secondary storyline is always the new scams that appear almost immediately to take advantage of victims even outside the disaster epicenter. Unfortunately, Hurricane Sandy was the latest reminder that online scammers and cybercriminals will continue to leverage national disasters for their own financial gain.
The most common scams that appear in the wake of a disaster are charity scams and malware:
- Charity Scams: Fake charities pop up almost immediately (or in some cases right before) a national disaster. These “charities” are often direct funnels to fraudster bank accounts or can be legitimate charities with high “administrative” costs. They can also be sources for phishing user information. US News and World Report gives 6 guidelines for how to avoid becoming a victim of a fake charity scam.
- Malware: In the information age, it isn’t atypical for the average person to rely on online sources for most of their disaster-related news coverage. Fraudsters can leverage this growing tendency to embed malware into fake news articles, videos and links. In many cases, these fraudsters are so quick to provide fake updates that fake links can show up very high in search results. Users should rely on trusted websites over articles that may appear when searching online.
Both of these scams are examples of how fraudsters are in many ways brilliant psychologists. Exploiting basic human needs is a major element of a fraudsters modus operandi and can explain why disaster = opportunity for fraudsters.