Fraudsters break all records in Japan relief ripoffs

Fraudster scumbags have beaten all records in setting up fake Japan relief pages, fielding more than 1.7 million malware pages, 419 scams trading on the Japanese disasters, 50+ fake domains with "Japan tsunami" or "Japan earthquake" in their URLs. MacWorld recommends donating via the Red Cross, or other established charities that you're familiar with.
Monday, Trend Micro reported on one phishing site that included "japan" in its URL, saying that the site was harvesting email addresses and other personal information from unsuspecting users.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a joint effort by the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, issued an alert last Friday that warned consumers to be wary of responding to donation requests following a disaster like Japan's.

Fake anti-virus vendors have also gotten in on the action, according to the SAN Institute's Internet Storm Center (ISC). Makers of the bogus security software stay atop breaking news by automatically poisoning search engine results with links to their wares.

The ISC came up with a tally of 1.7 million poisoned pages that tout the earthquake and tsunami, a number beyond even Google's ability to rapidly delete.

Fraudsters prey on Japan earthquake charity donations


  1. Also, it is a good idea to look up and compare charities that you’re considering on (or a similar site that evaluates the effectiveness of donations).

    1. And don’t donate to blatantly religious charities either.

      People need food and supplies. Not cargo crates of books about bronze age mythology.

  2. What does it cost to launch these kinds of scams? Is it low enough that the Red Cross could have an out-of-the-box scam-anticipation system that would flood search results with semi-legit pages that redirect to official pages?

    1. @akwhitacre:
      It takes nothing for them to setup many of the scams, they already have the templates built. Most of the fake concern or news malware out there is pretty intelligent, checking for top news terms, running a diff between the last hour and the current hour and updating itself. Remember, the closer they are to the actual event, the less ‘accurate’ they have to be in the emails. After that it’s just the usual stats grind on Barnam’s rule. Since most of the sites are up for hours at most per IP/bot generation, they can improve themselves procedurally.

  3. These scumbags should be rounded up and flown to Japan to lend assistance. They can start by carrying buckets of water into the failing reactor cores.

  4. One way to help Japan at present while also in some sense helping yourself would be to invest in those Japanese companies whose share prices are currently un-necessarily low due to panic selling…but you shall need to do research, just like before you give to any charity!

  5. I am in Osaka, Japan. I am using the American Red Cross.
    Hands on Tokyo is also trustworthy but they (according to their website) are currently unable to proceed with any projects since they are at the heart of the tragedy.

    Please beware of fraudulent charities! We are overwhelmed by the generosity that we have been shown by the world and it would be a waste if your well intentions were not received.

  6. It is worth mentioning also that Google, Paypal, and others have also been making donations easier.

    Just an aside – I hope someone gives Google and Twitter some kind of recognition for all they have done to help us over here.
    Google had an emergency response site up within 1 hour of the earthquake! I was using it to search for family and friends the same day.

  7. trying to work out why Red Cross wouldn’t be the obvious first choice for just about everyone. People are stupid.

  8. the japanese government has just asked to *not* send relief workers to japan, if i’m not misinformed. and i’d guess, japan doesn’t need financial donations. this is a G8-country. as devastating the tsunami was, it didn’t affect the whole country, which means there are pretty much capable of handling the situation by their own means. they certainly don’t need aid teams flying in, and, as it happened (with a german aid team), fly immediately back when they learned there might be radiation.
    really. if japan needs aid, they will ask for it. i believe they don’t need catastrophy tourism.
    if one is not in japan right now, there’s really nothing we can do. clicking on a link to donate some money will just achieve to give yourself a cozy feeling of having done something, and if you’re really impulsive, maybe you’ve just filled the pockets of a scammer.
    there’s a charity industry. they, first, feed themselves. be distrustful. ask for documentation: how much of the money i’ll donate actually arrives at the purpose? how big is the percentage you’ll eat up for your administration? you assault me here, on the street, but you’re not willing to give me real information? you claim to work for a legit charity, but in reality you are working for an outsourced company who will actually take up to two years worth of my donation?
    i’m not heartless. but i certainly believe that direct help is the way to go. it might be better to give money to the proverbial nigerian spammers, as they will spend it, means: fueling it into the local economy, than paying the opulent salary of a charity’s c.e.o.
    sorry for the rant…

  9. If you hadn’t said it Anne, I was going to. I believe I read that they were actually in Japan, working. I don’t believe they’ve turned back. Despite Japan’s resources, in an emergency I would imagine have additional doctors on hand would be very welcome.

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