BBB Warns of Charity Scams in Light of Malaysia Airlines Crash

July 22, 2014

In light of most grievous events, there are a few scammers looking to make a quick buck off the personal tragedies of others. The Malaysia Airlines MH17 tragedy is no different, as scammers are already setting up false charity pages that purport to give money to families of the victims while instead lining their pockets.  

While the most common charity scam comes in the form of a falsified charity asking for money either door-to-door or via email, other scammers are creating Facebook pages using the names of the victims, which then use malware to collect personal information, or send the user to unsavory sites or other spam when the headline or name is clicked on.

According to USA Today, one such fake headline reads “Video camera caught the moment plane MH17 crash over Ukraine. Watch here the video of crash.” Links like these are leading people to pop-up sites, get-rich-quick sites, gambling pages, and more, rather than providing more information on the crash.  SCAMwatch, which is run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, explains that by clicking on the advertisements, the scammers are making money by driving traffic to these sites through misleading means.

Regardless of the type of charity scam, BBB is here with a few tips on how to protect yourself and your savings.

--Always get your information from reliable sources. It’s natural to want more information on the events happening. But go to a legitimate news website, rather than clicking links on Facebook or other social networking platforms.

--Look for errors.  Be wary of any links that are very grammatically flawed like the one above, or contain phrases like “You won’t believe..." Real news sites will have more professional headlines.  

--Double-check before you donate. Check out the organization with the local charity registration office and BBB before you donate. You can also request a financial statement, annual report, budget plan, and/or information about the charity’s funding goals and proposed programs. A real organization will be willing to provide these, an illegitimate one might balk. 

--Don’t be fooled by names. Just because an organization has a name that look impressive or resembles the names of well-known organizations, does not mean that it is legitimate. “Red Crosses MH17 Donation Fund” or “U.S. Malaysian Aid” are both examples of organizations that sound like they could be real, but should be investigated for more information before you open your checkbook. 

--Protect your computer. Stay up-to-date with your malware, spyware, and firewall protection. All can be purchased from legitimate retailers, but it’s important to only purchase them there. It may seem expensive, but you’re insuring that scammers can’t get to your personal information, which might be worth thousands of dollars.