Wildfire Scams Crossing the Internet, Warns Websense

Security Company Websense Inc. in San Diego announced on October 25, 2007 that scammers were netting money from people by pretending to be charitable institutions.

Websense posted a picture on the Internet showing a dubious eBay auction posing as a request for monetary help from the Fire Rescue Relief Effort at San Diego as a result of the 2003 wildfires. Natural fires are common in the state.

The scam e-mail requests the reader to put aside for a while the item he/she wants to purchase and consider helping some unfortunate people. The money that the reader would donate would help to buy some hope for those children whose parents otherwise can't afford. EWeek published this, October 25, 2007.

According to Websense's Vice President of Security Research, Dan Hubbard, similar to what happened with Storm Katrina and many other recent calamities, this time too fraudsters are trying to divert money meant for victims of natural disasters by creating phony Websites for online donation and running them in areas of high Internet traffic. CNNMoney published this on October 25, 2007.

Hubbard further added that these criminals are simply exploiting people's outpouring support.

Users should know that reputed organizations never adopt such aggressive approach of asking donations or money from the public. These attempts are likely fraudulent means that use malware-hosting Websites crafted to capture visitors' sensitive information like banking details.

So Websense advises consumers who find a Website questionable to get in touch with government authorities who would help in solving the issue. They could also visit the consumer information center of the Federal government or the Internet Crime Complaint Center. Consumers should also be careful when they hear parties claiming to be institutions like the Red Cross offering invitation to go to their Websites or requesting for donations.

Websense headquarters in San Diego are away from the danger zone and are undamaged due to the fires. Even then the company, on October 22 2007, suggested its employees to remain at home. However, the company closed its office the next day so that employees could attend to taking their families to safer areas and manage with evacuation.

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