Cyber-Criminals Target Our Good Nature

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When a tragedy strikes, people throughout the world unite to lend a hand. The very best of humanity is brought to the forefront. Corporations send financial support, churches and community groups mobilize volunteers, and individuals give what they can. The recent earthquake in Haiti has proven that most people are truly compassionate and willing to help.

There are some, however, that take the tragedy of others as an opportunity to increase their own bottom line. There are plenty of bad guys in the world who won’t hesitate to prey upon our desire to help. If we’re not careful, we can get caught in their trap.

When we see a tragedy like the one in Haiti, our natural response is to try and send help. Hackers and other criminals take this opportunity to solicit contributions for fake charitable organizations. They may solicit your money through e-mail, Facebook, or even bogus (but legitimate looking) Internet sites.

The FBI has listed six things that we can all do to ensure that our money is going to the victims of the earthquake and not to the bank accounts of criminals.

Don’t respond to unsolicited e-mails or click on links embedded in those messages.

Be wary of individuals representing themselves as survivors of the disaster or officials asking for donations via e-mail or social networking sites.

Verify the legitimacy of nonprofit organizations by using Internet-based resources (such as give.org — a Better Business Bureau search mechanism for legit charities).

Be cautious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of the disaster through attached files. Only open attachments from known senders.

Make contributions directly to known organizations and avoid letting others make donations on your behalf.

Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions. Providing this information may compromise your identity.

Sadly, the actions of Internet criminals have scared many of us into doing nothing. If you feel the need to help, please don’t be dissuaded by these low-life hackers. There are several safe ways to donate through legitimate organizations; it just takes a little work to do it right. If you feel that you have already been scammed, please notify the FBI’s computer crimes division at www.ic3.gov. If you think you have been infected with a virus, call Computer Problem Specialists at (928) 468-0000 for a free virus scan.

Open your hearts, open your checkbooks, and open the windows of hope for the survivors in Haiti. But please don’t open a link from an unknown e-mail sender.

Daniel Taft is the senior network administrator and member/owner of Computer Problem Specialists, LLC with a degree in applied computer science. His career spans more than 20 years.

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