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Law enforcement warns of Nepal Earthquake Scams

FBI and security researchers have uncovered fraudulent activity pertaining to relief efforts associated with the tragic Nepal earthquake.

Cyber criminals have no scruples, they are always ready to exploit any tragedy to maximize their profits exploiting the interest of people in disastrous events. The last tragedy in order of time is the earthquake that hit the Nepal a few days ago, the earthquake has caused 7,365 deaths and 14,365 wounded.  Cyber criminals are exploiting a number of fraud schemes to steal money from people that intend to donate money to the victims.

The FBI has issued a warning about illegal activities connected that are trying to exploit the tragic events in Nepal.

“In the wake of natural disasters, many individuals feel moved to contribute to victim assistance programs and organizations across the country. The FBI reminds the public to apply a critical eye and conduct due diligence before giving to anyone soliciting donations on behalf of disaster victims. Solicitations can originate as e-mails, websites, door-to-door collections, mailings, telephone calls and similar methods,” the FBI warning says.

The principal Aid organizations have established a number of relief funds for victims of the earthquake in Nepal, at same time fraudsters have developed several techniques to trick people into giving up donations and personal information. The FBI is warning consumers about the potential for financial fraud, as is typical in the aftermath of disasters such as the Nepal earthquake.

Security experts at Barracuda Labs have collected evidence of numerous scam attempts linked to the earthquake in Nepal. The emails attempt to trick victims into providing personal information (i.e. full name, address, email, occupation) in order to receive money from Western Union, which the cyber criminals explain is giving out money.


The cyber criminals are implementing the classic “419” scam schema that offers to the victims large amount of money after they have made a small payment to very their identity

“Spammers looking to capitalize on the best intentions of others have begun their campaign of deception by following a well-known scam known as “419,” a scam that promises a victim a significant amount of money, but only after a payment has been made to ‘verify the identity’ of a would be victim. Online versions of the scam originate primarily in the United States, the United Kingdom and Nigeria. The number “419” refers to the section of the Nigerian Criminal Code dealing with fraud.” wrote Luis Chapetti of Barracuda in a blog post.

The scammers use the technique to collect victims’ data and trick victims into sending them small amount of data.

“Once the information is given, the next steps of collecting the relief fund are then sent. The potential victim is instructed to send a wire transfer fee via Western Union to receive the funds that have been promised to them. Sadly, this isn’t the case and victims are left with their money and sensitive data in the hands of scammers,” continues Chapetti.

To make email more credible, cyber criminals included in the content of the email warning to recipients about the risks of phishing attacks.

“Warning: Let it be known to you that these transactions are based on digital codes and computerized systems, it is therefore nsafe to reveal your details to someone else, e.g., Western Union ‘Money Transfer Control Number (MTCN)’. We therefore advice that you keep this process very confidential until this process is completed. This is an attempt to protect you against hackers and spies,” states one the statement including in the email.

Unfortunately, criminals are improving their techniques and this kind of scams are still very effective for this reason it is essential to share knowledge about them.

Anyone that will notice suspicious activities related to the Nepal earthquake can report it to the FBI by calling the phone number (866) 720-5721.

Pierluigi Paganini

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