Posted on behalf of Mathew Nisbet, Malware Data Analyst, Symantec Hosted Services
People all over the world are currently feeling a great deal of sympathy for the people of Haiti, who were recently hit by a severe earthquake. Humanitarian aid is being offered by many countries around the globe, and aid charities are looking for donations so that they can send all the help they can.
And then there are people who don’t want to help and will use any means to try and get those donations. '419' advance fee fraud scams are common and the perpetrators are always looking for new attention-grabbing topics which will trick people into handing over their money. Something like the humanitarian crisis of the Haiti earthquake is, sadly, a prime target for these scammers. They count on the public’s good nature, concern, and desire to help, and hope that they won’t see through the scam email which they are reading. The desire to help can often cloud a person's good judgement.
Below (screenshot attached) is a 419 style scam we have already seen. They have used the correct postal address, and there is indeed a British Red Cross appeal for donations to help the victims of this disaster, but the BRC do not use Western Union for donations. Also, the email address supplied for contact is not one belonging to the BRC. Any money sent using the instructions in this email would not help anyone in Haiti, it would end up in the pockets of a cyber-criminal.
If you wish to make a donation to help fund the BRC humanitarian effort, you can do so via their website (http://www.redcross.org.uk). General advice is that at any time you learn of an appeal for donations that you wish to contribute to, you should contact the charity directly yourself to ensure that it is a genuine appeal, and that your money really is going where you want it to.