The recent flooding in Texas and the resulting devastation has been a painful reminder of how little control we have over our environment. While most have responded with compassion, there are always those who would seek to profit off of the confusion of a natural disaster by using that compassion against those wishing to help. The following recommendations and sources of information are presented here, in order to ensure that you do not become a victim of phishing scams.
- How to Avoid Phishing Scams
- Always be wary of phone calls. If someone calls you on the phone ask for a call back number. Do not let them push you to donate at that time. Ask for the name of the organization, and hang up. It is worth taking a few moments to check if the organization is legitimate, and most of these organization will have websites where you can give directly. Verifying most charities is easy, and can be done through the Better Business Bureau Giving Alliance.
- Another popular method of phishing comes by way of email. There are a few things to watch out for here and steps you can take to protect yourself:
- Make sure that your virus protection software is up to date.
- Disable the automatic download of email attachments.
- If you open an email that appears to be from a legitimate source, you should still refrain from using the links in the email. Go directly to the website from your search browser, eliminating the risks that may come from engaging directly with the email.
- Some hackers have the ability to make it appear that the email is coming from someone you know! Make sure to contact these people directly using another means. Please also consider that while the email may be coming from someone you know, they themselves may have been duped!
- While some government agencies recommend that you save attachments sent in emails and scan them, we do not recommend downloading these attachments. Just go to a trusted source, it isn’t worth the risk.
- How to Know Your Money is Going to the Right Place? Give to Charities You Know.
Being proactive with your donation efforts is the best way to ensure that your efforts go where they are most needed. The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, in conjunction with the State of Texas, has launched the Rebuild Texas Fund which takes donations directly from their website. Another option to consider is utilizing the Better Business Bureau list of reputable charities.
- How to Report Phishing
If you suspect that someone has attempted to make you the victim of a phishing scheme, please report it immediately. Taking the time to report suspected phishing activities can help stop these activities and ensure that aid is making it to those who need it most.