Online scammers exploit California wildfire disaster

No smoke without liars

The California wildfire disaster, like so many other tragedies involving loss of life, has become the subject of an online scam. If the history of incidents like the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster and Hurricane Katrina is anything to go by, fire-themed malware is likely to follow.

Net security firm Websense reports that its security research team has discovered suspicious online scams geared to ripping off kind-hearted people attempting to donate money to the Californian fire effort.

"Unfortunately, as we saw with Katrina and several other recent emergencies, there are criminals who attempt to divert monies intended for the victims by creating bogus online donation websites and advertising them on high-traffic websites," said Dan Hubbard, vice president of security researcher Websense. "These criminals are trying to take advantage of the amazing outpouring of support locally, state-wide and internationally. Websense is aggressively monitoring domain registrations, email honeypots, and scanning the eeb looking for these suspicious sites."

Punters thinking of donating online are advised not to respond to spam emails but to visit the websites of legitimate organisations - such as the Red Cross and Salvation Army - involved in the relief effort. Surfers can report suspicious internet sites or emails to the Internet Crime Complaint Centre or the Federal government's consumer information centre. ®

Bootnote

Websense, which is based in San Diego, was not in an evacuation area. However, on 23 October it closed San Diego headquarters so employees could focus on the safety and security of their families and deal with evacuations and other issues. Many employees have continued to work from home since.

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