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Pondlife earthquake scammers go mobile

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The Chinese earthquake and the Burmese cyclone, like so many other tragedies before them, are being actively exploited by online scammers. Past history involving disasters such as the Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina suggest opportunistic malware attacks themed around these latest events are likely to follow.

Scammers have created bogus online donation websites in the effort to siphon off donations to victims of the Sichuan province earthquake in China and the Cyclone Nargis. The fraudulent sites invite donations via either Paypal or, in some cases, wire transfer.

In the case of the Chinese earthquake the scam has gone mobile. Text messages circulating in China invite recipients to send money to a named account or reply to a premium-rate text line to help fund relief efforts, the SANS Institute's Internet Storm Centre (ISC) reports. These messages commonly pose as messages from genuine relief agencies, such as the Red Cross.

The ISC reckons that scammers have purchased services anonymously through third parties in a bid to throw local authorities off their scent.

Normally punters thinking of donating to either disaster relief fund online are advised to ignore unsolicited emails and visit the websites of legitimate organisations - such as the Red Cross - involved in the relief effort. However, unconfirmed reports suggest that hackers have compromised the Red Cross site in China. Unscrupulous local hackers have reportedly tampered with portions of the site used to collect donations from the public, pointing users towards bogus accounts under their control. ®

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