In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, many consumers are looking for news about the hurricane or information about charities that are helping victims. The Federal Trade Commission cautions consumers to be careful of email messages that make these offers. A new Consumer Alert from the FTC warns that fraud artists are sending spam trying to rip-off consumers.
“After a Disaster: Spam May Scam” can be found online at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt027.shtm. The alert describes two common spam emails:
- one requests donations, claiming to provide aid to victims, when in fact, the spammers keep most or all of the funds;
- the other offers news about the hurricane if readers click on a link. Clicking secretly installs spyware onto the user’s computer, however, giving hackers control of the computer, and could possibly lead to identity theft.
The FTC advises consumers that they should not reply to these unsolicited emails, click on links in the emails, or even cut and paste the links into their own Internet browsers, as scammers can make links look like they go one place, but actually send computer users somewhere else. For more information from the FTC about Hurricane Katrina, consumers can visit http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/recovery/hurricane/index.html.
Copies of the consumer alert are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt027.shtm, http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt027.pdf and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. Call toll-free: 1-877-FTC-HELP.