The 10th anniversary of the largest terrorist attack on American soil is quickly approaching, prompting consumers across the country to remember the occasion with donations to charitable organizations.
However, particularly unscrupulous crooks hoping to prey on the national tragedy will also likely use the opportunity to steal information or money from unsuspecting consumers who just want to do their part. The world is far more reliant on digital information now than it was in 2001, and as such, many thieves are taking to social networking sites and email services in an effort to try to steal from Americans.
For example, many may attempt to start bogus memorial funds and promote them using Facebook and Twitter messages. And in doing so, they may ask consumers to either contribute money or otherwise turn over sensitive financial information such as their credit card or bank account numbers. For this reason, it's advisable that consumers only make contributions to well-known and reputable funds and charities so that they're not duped by an identity thief looking to capitalize on national sorrow.
Another way crooks may try to gain access to consumers' critical personal or financial information is by sending links to fraudulent websites. Typically, these will show up in email and social network inboxes with sensationalist titles related to Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden or other names and places associated with September 11. But consumers who click these links will find that there is no video, photo or article, as the site was merely put in place to load malicious software onto the victim's computer. These programs are specifically designed to mine systems for information such as stored credit card or bank account information, which can then be used fraudulently by the crooks who set up the site.
Consumers who want to protect themselves from these threats will need to be vigilant and more cautious than normal during this trying time. They should always closely examine all links they're sent and verify URLs to make sure they're legitimate, and only turn over sensitive data if they're absolutely sure the site won't lead to fraud. Further, it may be a good idea to install antivirus software and scan all potential email attachments and downloads to make sure that they won't do any harm to a computer.
For more tips on how to avoid 9/11 scams, read this post by Identity Theft 911's chief information security officer Ondrej Krehel
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