In the aftermath of the bombings at the Boston Marathon, America's charitable nature was fully on display. The horrific stories and images of people injured in the blasts galvanized a wave of financial support from across the country. Unfortunately, quick-thinking fraudsters were already a step ahead, sending emails and setting up social media accounts designed to turn good intentions into personal gain.
The FBI sent out an alert, noting that its Internet Crime Complaint Center had seen indications of fraudulent activity attempting to take advantage of people donating to the Boston cause. The alert mentioned phishing emails, domain name purchases and referenced a Twitter account that had been set up using the Boston Marathon name and logo. While Twitter shut down that account after savvy users noticed it was newly registered and had very few followers, it goes to show that scammers think and act quickly to capitalize on tragedy.
To avoid being duped, learn how to avoid scams that follow in the wake of a disaster-natural or manmade.
• Be skeptical about emails. An email with an account of the bombings, supposedly written by a victim, might be a moving read, but it could also be a scam attempt. If there's a request for donations at the end of the email, ignore it and send funds to a well-known charity instead.
• Research charities. A number of previously unknown charities are likely to pop up in the days following a tragedy. Instead of donating to those organizations on a whim, do a bit of research. Even a cursory Web search can provide details about a charity, but sites like GiveWell.org and GuideStar.org, which list recognized charities, are another great resource.
• Beware of text solicitations. Texts soliciting disaster donations should always be viewed with suspicion. Some might provide links to websites or app downloads that can install malware used in identity theft. Others include a phone number; when users call, they're asked for credit card information, which thieves then use to perpetrate fraud.
Anyone who gives to charity wants their donation to reach the true victims of a disaster. Being wise to scams enables givers to ensure that their donations are going to the right place, all while protecting against fraud and identity theft.
While late night TV has shown that there is an endless array of stupid criminals out in the world, many identity thieves can't be counted among that bunch. Using well-honed tech skills and some malicious creativity, these scammers are constantly looking for and launching new ways to prey on unsuspecting victims.
Since everyone is a potential target for identity theft, there's no excuse for ignoring the latest tricks and hacks that these criminals come up with. Staying aware is staying safer, and becoming familiar with some quick tips will bring you security-until the next scam pops up. Keep these trending scams in mind, but never forget to stay updated by following identity theft news.
* Phishing goes mobile. Email phishing schemes, designed to lure users into clicking a link that installs malware on your computer, have gone beyond the desktop and the laptop. As more and more people use smartphones, thieves are tapping into the technology and texting links, often under the guise of being from a friend or family member, that do the same dirty work as traditional phishing links. Never click through on a texted link to a website-double check by doing a Web search for the URL.
* Capitalizing on disaster. The charitable impulse that follows in the wake of disastrous events is something that thieves want to make the most of. By setting up fake charities, soliciting donations and even posing as IRS agents who can help disaster victims with filing casualty loss claims, thieves heartlessly prey on good intentions and bad situations. Stay safe by only donating to recognized organizations, and never give out personal financial information or Social Security numbers.
Awareness is the key to identity safety in the age of creative criminals and hackers. Luckily, ID theft scams are often in the news-stay informed to stay protected. For more information, please read this interview with IDT911 Co-founder and Chairman Adam Levin on .