Homeland Security, FBI and other credible sources are broadcasting warnings of malicious websites, emails and social networking schemes with hooks related to the 9/11 attacks. One source stated website links found in emails entice victims with subject lines such as “in-depth details about the terrorist attack” or “towers going down.” Once the link is clicked, consumers become vulnerable to phishing schemes and computers become exposed to malicious viruses. When surfing social networking sites, steer clear of links with so-called secret 9/11 videos or conspiracy theories.
These scams are not limited to technology. A news report in Phoenix, Arizona discussed a phony commemorative coin, marketed as an investment opportunity to benefit 9/11 “victims.” Websites are masquerading as fund-raising pages for charities. We know ten years ago, some real charities solicited funds for victims and failed to distribute them appropriately. Other charities were bogus and only benefited the pockets of scam artists.
It is wise to be wary.
BBB offers some tips to consider as we continue to experience the aftermath of the terrorist attacks:
- For online videos related to the anniversary of 9/11, rely on websites run by TV networks and other reputable news organizations.
- Don’t click on links in emails related to 9/11 – and don’t download software to “view a photo or video” – odds are great this will simply release “viruses to steal your identity and money.
- Make sure your computer security software is up-to-date. Run scans with your antivirus software several times a week. Set your privacy settings as tight as possible on social networks.
- When solicited to contribute to charities, ask questions about why the charity still needs to collect 9/11 related money now. What ongoing purposes are they serving that flow from the events of 9/11? You can request written details from the charity about what it does with the donations.
- If you want to donate to a charity that called you, request printed materials and resist the urge to give your credit or bank card information over the phone. If you don’t receive the information – good chance the charity was phony.
- Mailings from charitable organization in which you haven’t previously donated or are not familiar with may simply mean a scam artist has purchased a “mailing list” with your name and address on it. Authenticate the organization before you donate.
- Check with the IRS to verify the organization’s tax exempt status. In Maryland, you can also verify charity registration through the Maryland Office of the Secretary of State.
- Contact your BBB to get charity reviews on 9/11 related charities. See national BBB charity reviews at www.bbb.org/charity. Local charity reviews are also available through www.greatermd.bbb.org.