Charity scams on the rise amid conflict in Middle East

Scammers are taking advantage of the ongoing conflict in the Middle East by diverting donations to accounts held by fraudsters.

Cybersecurity company Group-IB told The Straits Times that scams thrive amid big conflicts by creating an environment in which scammers manipulate people’s emotions by instilling a sense of urgency.

Vladimir Kalugin, operations director of digital risk protection at the firm, said it is aware of suspicious websites that are exploiting the conflict to solicit donations.

The Singapore Cyber Emergency Response Team, under the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore, had in March 2022 warned of a rise in reports of scammers exploiting the Ukraine war, where fraudsters used, among other tools, spam emails laced with data-stealing malware to steal funds.

People in Singapore have been responding to calls for humanitarian relief assistance soon after the war in Gaza erupted.

Satwant Singh, chairman of disaster relief agency Mercy Relief, warned against falling prey to scams, adding that it is always “easy to let the heart do the talking when it comes to helping a fellow human being in need”.

Kalugin said donors can check a charity’s authenticity by looking at its website’s creation date via Whois.

“Scammers create multiple websites quickly to exploit a certain trending topic, so a recently created resource should be treated with caution,” he said.

In general, donation fraud schemes target a broad audience and are not focused on a specific geography. — The Straits Times/ANN

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