‘Tis the Season for Online Charity Scams [AUDIO]
Security experts are warning against charity scams being launched this month by cyber criminals, at precisely the time of year when many people are in a giving mood.
Those scams aim to take advantage of our generosity by sending money right into the culprits' pockets instead of deserving organizations. But you don't have to become a victim; just remain vigilant.
"If you're offered something or someone calls you, emails you or reaches out to you in the cyber world and asks for personal information, be skeptical," said William Kowalski, director of operations for Rehmann Corporate Investigative Services. "If it's an unknown charity, or something new that pops up, some basic amount of research would be wise just to make sure that the charity does exist and is legitimate.
"Whether it's with a phone call," said Kowalski, "or researching them on your own or hiring someone to check the background of the organization, it's important to do your homework."
These days, cyber criminals are very creative and try to be one step ahead. For example, if you're looking for a place to donate online and you make a typing mistake, chances are there will be a similar site that looks identical to the site you were trying to reach.
"It's become so bad now that there's a term for it," Kowalski said. "It's called typo-squatting, where an individual may take an individual charity and set up a site based on a popular typing mistake people may have made when trying to get to that particular site. It requests personal identifying information and may even just accept payment."
Keep in mind that if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
"What we see now is that the cyber criminals are very event-driven," said Kowalski. "When they see things like the holidays, they know people generally mail a lot of packages or travel. So, they'll use travel emails to take advantage of you, or will send you fake tracking information for packages and things like that so you sign on or respond and unknowingly open yourself up to a scam."