It’s sad to admit, but unfortunately there are people out there who try to take advantage of not only the tragedies of others, but also the people who reach out to help those in need. The most representative of these opportunistic scammers try to lure good-hearted people to give money to charities when they are in fact, filling their own pockets.

There are two types of natural disaster scams.  They aim for the same goal of stealing your money, but employ different means to achieve their purpose.


Disaster Victim Relief Scams

The basic scam method is simple: they ask for money, which will be used to help victims.

Here are some common characteristics to be on the lookout for:

1. They strike while the topic is hot in people’s minds.

2. They start by asking for small sums of money to “help someone in need,” which often snowballs into greater amounts because of “unforeseen circumstances.”

3. They offer to locate loved ones who remain missing for a fee.

4. They can come from the victim, a foreign government asking for help, or from organizations that purport to be helping the victims of the disaster.

5. They use “official sounding” names as their organizations.

6. They ask for personal information.

7. They ask for money to be deposited into foreign banking institutions.


Other Natural Disaster Related Scams

This scam employs a different method, but aims for the same thing- to take advantage of people who are willing to help victims of the disaster.

Here is how it works:

1. Scammers set up virus-laden sites that show up when people search for “tsunami,” “earthquake,” “disaster,” etc.

2. People click on the sites, thinking that they are legitimate and will contain accurate information about the disaster.

3. Contrary to this, clicking on the site activates a pop-up window that tries to scare people into believing that they have a badly infected PC and must pay to have it removed.


Tips to Donate to Relief Funds Safely

1. Be cautious of people professing to be surviving victims, or government officials asking for assistance.

2. Do not click on links or open emails that have natural disaster images or videos attached – these could contain computer viruses.

3. Do not send money to charities or organizations that you are not familiar with.

4. Beware of charities with names that are similar to well known charities.  When in doubt, do your homework and research the charity.  A simple search on the Internet may save you money, time, and stress.

5. When searching for news on disasters, go to a trusted news site or major media organizations, not a random link that shows up on the Internet.

6. Be vigilant and proactive about reporting disaster scams! It may potentially prevent other computer users from becoming a victim.  Report to

a. Better Business Bureau (
b. FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (
c. Websites like Charity Navigator can confirm whether a charity is real and whether it has a good reputation.

Remember these tips, and help the cause and the victims, not the scammers.

If you have been defrauded by a fake charity, post a complaint to Scambook.



See Also

Charity Fraud Warning: Oklahoma Tornado Disaster Relief Scams
Avoiding Breast Cancer Charity Scams
5 Essential Survival Tips to Prepare Your Family for a Natural Disaster

About The Author

Scambook is an online complaint resolution platform dedicated to obtaining justice for victims of fraud with unprecedented speed and accuracy. By building communities and providing resources on the latest scams, Scambook arms consumers with the up-to-date information they need to stay on top of emerging schemes. Since its inception, Scambook has resolved over $10 million in reported consumer damages.

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2 Responses

  1. Raymond Cox

    I have just been scammed out of £120 by Asian speaking so called loan company representatives, they claimed their company was http://www.easyloans which i have since found out it was not, they gave me this phone number to contact them which i did, i was then told to get a UKvoucher for the first payment of £120 and then to phone them and give them the last 9 numbers of the voucher reference number which i did and told me the money loan would be in my bank account with in 45 minutes then i was to phone them again to give them the remainder of the ref/numbers, needless to say the phone number was now not obtainable, this is not the first time, where do they get my details from,can you help i am a pensioner and too trusting.

  2. Raymond Cox

    P.S This was the phone number i was given 02081149193.

    Please add this to my above comment.


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