The devastation which we are all witnessing on our TV, phones, tablets and laptops is clear to see in regards to Hurricane Harvey and the city of Houston. It is only natural to want to help, and many people do this through online donations… but be careful! Unfortunately, not everybody has good intentions and there are people out there who are looking to make a quick buck or two at your expense.
These scammers, known now as “Storm Chasers”, are taking full advantage of the situation. Phishing is taking place via emails and social media, with links tagged as “Hurricane Harvey” or a click-bait headline enticing people to click and read more.
However, this allows the scammers access to your personal information and could even present them with an opportunity to embed malware on your device. Examples of these headlines were found by fortune.com, and they included “see this terrifying video” and “hurricane harvey – nueces county news release 11 – it’s your chance to help.pdf”.
The fake donation pages are also a big hit for the “Storm Chasers”. Luring people to donate and help with relief funds, but pocketing the money themselves while gaining your personal information. Don’t be fooled, they are a minority but they are also believable and ready to take advantage. So, it is essential that if you are donating to a relief fund that you do some research and don’t just click on a random webpage, link, or charity organisation.
Sharing images and stories of the effects of Hurricane Harvey is all well and good if they are legitimate, but what about the images and stories which are not. There are many stories out there in regards to Hurricane Harvey, like the shark on the motorway, and the airplanes submerged at the airport which aren’t true ! These images are being shared by social media users and if shared enough the publisher will start to get money for advertising. Think before you click, you could be funding a fraud.
Please be wary about sharing any emergency contact information for the area. An image has been shared thousands of times with the following message “The National Guard is being deployed to our Texas area. If you find yourself in a state of emergency. Call 1-800-527-3907. Please copy, paste or share!!!!!!!!!” … But this number will re direct the caller straight through to an insurance company, looking to take advantage of the vulnerable. The emergency departments of Houston have advised locals to call 911 for an emergency or 311 for non-emergency.
These natural disasters bring out the best in people, but also the worst. If you wish to donate to help the state of Texas, please follow these 3 simple steps.
1- Research the charity asking for donations
If they have only been set up since the disaster be wary. Try and give your donations to reputable charities who have helped during other disasters. At least then you know where your money is going and how it is going to help. If you want to help a smaller charity, find an official website and email directly just to verify the donation page. Always ensure your payment is made via a secure payment platform.
2- Don’t click on any links that come through to your personal email
As stated above, they are tailored to lure you in, but don’t fall for it. If you receive an email asking to donate or to share a story via social media do not click on the link or share any log in details or personal information. Delete the email and let others know of the risks so that they don’t get caught.
3- Don’t share “fake news”
Ensure that any stories you share online are legitimate. Check out the source of the report and see what reactions they have had to previous articles. Also quite simply, check the comments section, you will find numerous comments claiming that the article is fake from other users. A website which you can use to see if the story is fake or real is www.snopes.com which highlights all the latest fake news circulating on social media.