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Scammers Taking Advantage of Disaster Tragedies

The US-CERT (United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team) alerted computer users on May 19, 2008 to watch out for new phishing scams that were taking advantage of the recent natural calamities in Myanmar and China.

According to the agency, phishing scams might take the form of requests for donations from organizations that deal in such aids. The requests solicit users to click on a link that actually points to a phony Website designed to imitate a genuine charity Website. They then urge users to furnish their private information that could further put them at risk of compromise, as reported by InformationWeek on May 20, 2008.

At the time, when these reports are coming in from US-CERT, a global cyber security provider, Websense, said that a phishing act had siphoned off large amounts of online financial donations that sympathetic people around the world had made to the Red Cross. The phishing Website spoofed the Red Cross and provided a number of bank accounts where interested parties could send their donations.

But, even though the link to the phishing site has now disappeared following alerts from security companies, authorities apprehended that the bad guys' acts could resurface on some other area of the Internet. Phishing, which represents an effort to deceptively acquire personal information like credit card and password details from Web browsers, occurs typically through instant messaging or e-mail and often asks users to type in details onto a Website.

Jyoti Prakash, Channel Manager for Websense Security Labs for South Asian Association of Regional Co-operation (SAARC) region, said that such links normally stay active for 6-7 hours following which the phishers go for a new identity to use in their attack, as reported by TheEconomicTimes on May 21, 2008.

Furthermore, Jim Clausing, Security Researcher, the SANS Institute's Internet Storm Center, said on May 17, 2008 that the scammers over many years have been using fake Websites to extort donations, as reported by InformationWeek on May 20, 2008.

Meanwhile, security experts maintain that Internet surfers could protect themselves from becoming victim of such types of cyber crime by adopting the guidelines of security agencies like the CERTs.

Related article: Scammers Exploit Tax System Resulting in ID Theft

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