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Disasters trigger scams

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Local anti-virus vendor Eset SA has warned South Africans to be aware of online scams that try to exploit disaster relief efforts.

This warning comes after the devastating hurricane Katrina in the US and last week`s Kloof Street bus accident in Cape Town.

Online scams emerged to take advantage of people`s sympathy after the tsunami disaster that struck in December 2004, Eset notes.

"Scam artists are waiting in the wings for disasters such as these. They prey upon public sympathy for the disaster victims by sending out millions of spam messages requesting financial aid to be deposited in a particular bank account," says Justin Stanford, CEO of Eset SA.

Stanford has encouraged consumers to make their donations directly to recognised charities or bank accounts vetted to be genuinely assisting the affected people.

"Unfortunately there are opportunistic criminals out there that use disaster to prey on the unquestioning generosity of the public. Don`t be fooled and make sure your donation reaches the people it is intended to help," he adds.

Stanford has given some suggestions on how to spot a scam:

* If you didn`t opt-in - legitimate charities only send appeals to individuals who have explicitly chosen to receive e-mails from the organisation. When unsolicited, e-mails are almost always fraudulent.

* Don`t be fooled by appearance - e-mails can appear legitimate by copying the graphics and language of a legitimate organisation. Many include tragic stories of victims of the disaster.

* Be careful what you click - links in e-mails can lead to "spoofed" Web sites that mirror the look and feel of a genuine organisation and a photo could contain a virus. Only open attachments you are expecting.

* While some e-mails may be genuine, it is difficult to confirm authenticity or ensure donations reached the intended recipient.

* Type the URL of a legitimate aid group directly into your Internet browser (do not click through from any source).

* Follow the Web site`s instructions on how to send donations. This will ensure the funds actually reach the intended recipient and that these charities will be able to do the greatest good.

Related stories:
Worm rides tsunami
US takes on worst spammers

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