When tragedy strikes, whether in the local community or in a country across the globe, social media can become a barrage of opportunities asking for donations to the cause. But how can donors know which charity to choose without being scammed or risking their cybersecurity?
The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Ragib Hasan, associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Computer Science, suggests what to look for when planning to donate money virtually.
“During any international crisis or event, people are more interested in donating to charitable and humanitarian causes,” Hasan said. “Taking advantage of that, cybercriminals launch spam email campaigns, launch fake charity websites and also steal identities of unsuspecting donors.”
Thanks to experts educating the public, most people are more cautious about spam emails. However, during humanitarian disasters, like the one unfolding in Ukraine, people can let down their defenses in their hopes to help those in need.
“Once someone clicks on a spam link, donors can be duped into donating to a fake charity,” Hasan said. “Scammers can even imitate the website of real charities, like the Red Cross, by slightly misspelling the charity’s name on the website’s URL.”
In addition to stolen donations, also among the risks are identity theft and malware.
“Cybercriminals can steal the identities of the donors, and fake charity websites can also contain malware that will infect the browser,” Hasan said.
Ways to stay safe
Hasan suggests six ways to help ensure that your donation goes to a reputable source and keeps your information safe.
This story originally appeared on the UAB News website.