How to Avoid Charity Scams during Disasters

by | Feb 26, 2022 | News

By now, we are sure you have heard about the Russian military activity in Ukraine and associated political tensions around the world. We hope for a swift resolution to this crisis.

The U.S. Government has published multiple warnings of potential cyberattacks against American businesses and critical infrastructure associated with the events in Ukraine.

Closer to home, the unfortunate reality is that criminals and scammers are actively trying to exploit the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine for their own benefit. I’d like to share some tips to help you avoid charity scams during times like these.

Step 1

The first thing to do is approach any donation opportunity with a questioning attitude. These criminals attempt to prey on our emotions and desire to support those in need, bypassing the precautions that we might otherwise take to protect ourselves from fraudulent activity.

So, step one is take pause, recognize that criminals are targeting this crisis, and proceed with caution.

Step 2

The next thing to do is recognize that a donation to Ukraine is an investment in Ukraine, and you should approach it as you would any other investment.

Do your research. Verify the charity’s authenticity and verify that they actually have a presence in Ukraine or the capability to deliver aid to a disaster area.

The Federal Trade Commission publishes comprehensive guidance on their website for identifying and vetting charities, and I would encourage everyone to visit the site before finalizing a donation.

Step 3

The last thing to keep in mind is to be cautious of charity solicitations on social media, on email, and by phone. Criminals will often reach out to their victims through these platforms, and you should be highly skeptical if someone does reach out to you by these means.

During this crisis and after, you should never click on a link or open an attachment in an email from someone you don’t personally know, you should never give out personal information over the phone, and you should be very skeptical of solicitations placed on social media.

In short, my bottom line recommendations are to recognize the criminals are out there and maintain a questioning attitude, research your charity as you would any other investment, and follow the basic cybersecurity guidelines I discussed earlier.

8 Tips to Avoid Charity Scams

  1. Scammers take advantage following crises like natural disasters and the conflict now in Ukraine
  2. People act with emotion and criminals prey on this — take a pause before you act
  3. Proceed with caution and treat as an investment in the people of Ukraine
  4. Do your research
  5. Verify the charity’s authenticity and verify their presence in the region to provide aid
  6. If you have a question around the authenticity, consult the Federal Trade Commission website
  7. Following a donation (and always) proceed with caution when you receive an email from someone you don’t personally know, you should never give out personal information via phone
  8. Be skeptical about solicitations on social media unless from a source you know, trust, and can verify

About the Author

Eric Regnier is a Project Manager and Cybersecurity Consultant for ZAG Technical Services specializing in the implementation of cybersecurity solutions within organizations. He is a former US Navy submarine officer with master’s degrees in technology policy and computer science, holding professional certifications in CISSP, CCSP, and PMP.

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