Fake donation schemes blossom after devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria

Where tragedy strikes, a fraudster follows. The aftermath of the deadly earthquake in Turkey and Syria is no different – financial scammers are capitalizing on this natural disaster to trick people into giving money to charity and using it for personal gain.

Researchers from the US cybersecurity firm Cyble say they have detected an increase in fake donation schemes following the earthquake in Turkey and Syria.

“The Kahramanmaras earthquake in Turkey and Syria on 6th February 2023 is a prime example of how scammers take advantage of natural calamities to carry out donation scams. After a disaster, people often want to help those affected by donating to charity organizations,” Cyble Research & Intelligence Labs said in a blog post.

“Scammers exploit this generosity by falsely claiming to be collecting funds for disaster relief efforts when the money will actually be used for personal gain.”

Researchers have discovered various domains and IP addresses hosting websites that claim to be collecting funds to aid people affected by the disaster. The earthquake death toll has reached over 36,000 and is sure to rise further.

For instance, one fake website, redcrossturkey.com, claims to be created to accept donations for those struck by the disaster in Turkey and Syria. It requests personal information, such as the user’s mobile number and email ID.

A phishing site is kindly inviting to donate aid and your data. Courtesy of Cyble.

And while after submitting the information you are redirected to a legitimate donation website, the scammers who created the phishing site are now in possession of your personal details. This allows them to contact you through phone calls or emails and possibly deceive you into transferring money to their accounts, Cyble said.

Another page, help-turkey.org, was also falsely created to collect aid. The method is different, according to Cyble – upon clicking the “Make a Donation” button, the user is redirected to a page where the donation can be completed via PayPal. Through this method, the scammers can successfully transfer the money into their own accounts.

Help-turkey.org was also falsely created to collect aid – via PayPal. Courtesy of Cyble.

“The serving IP address for the website hxxps://help-turkey[.]org/ is 35.208.102[.]247, which has been utilized to host other phishing pages,” the report said.

Cyble’s researchers warn: “Even with the best intentions, one needs to be cautious and verify the legitimacy of any donation opportunities before providing information or making a donation.”

It’s best to be wary of opening any links received via SMS or emails delivered to your phone. Besides, you should always check out the legitimacy of any donation account and choose a traceable method of payment to ensure accountability.