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Dodgy Haiti earthquake-themed domains point to scams

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With sad inevitability, fraudsters have rushed to register the Haiti earthquake-themed scam URLs in the wake of Tuesday's natural disaster in the impoverished Caribbean country.

Not all the newly registered domains may turn out to be fraudulent, but ever since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 the registration of fraudulent domains has preceded cynical scams attempting to exploit the generosity of ordinary people to line the pockets of fraudsters.

Both the FBI (here) and Better Business Bureau (here) published warnings on Wednesday about possible charity donation scams following the earthquake in Haiti.

Security researchers at the Internet Storm Centre have already logged the appeared of suspicious domains not connected to recognised charities. "We are already seeing a bunch of domains being parked in relation to the Haiti disaster, and we are going to attempt to keep an eye on them all to warn our readers of anything possibly misaligned," ISC researcher Joel Esler writes.

Scams have evolved since the days of Katrina so that Black Hat search engine manipulation is used to promote dodgy sites, Twitter tag-poisoning and even paid search engine placement ads may be brought into play to increase traffic flowing towards fraudulent domains. Cybercrooks may also attempt to trick surfers into downloading malware under the guise of codecs supposedly needed to view video reports of the Haitian tragedy, if previous experience is any guide.

As many as 100,000 people are feared dead, and millions more affected, by a magnitude 7.0 quake whose epicentre was located approximately 15km from Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital.

Those interested in making donations are advised to go directly to the websites of recognised charities such as the Disasters Emergency Committee in the UK and the IFRC (Red Cross and Red Crescent). ®

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