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Security expert warns of donation scams in wake of Turkish and Syrian earthquake

While rescuers are still working through rubble in a desperate race to find survivors in yesterday’s earthquake in Turkey and Syria, one security researcher is worried about how scammers may take advantage of the disaster.

user icon David Hollingworth
Tue, 07 Feb 2023
Security expert warns of donation scams in wake of Turkish and Syrian earthquake
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Johannes Ullrich, dean of research at the SANS Technology Institute, believes that donation scams and even malware attacks may be on the way.

“Sadly, experience teaches us that disasters like this will often be abused,” Ullrich wrote in a blog entry overnight. “The most common scam involves fake donation websites. But you may also see malware disguised as a video or images from the affected region.”

However, Ulrich has some advice to keep scammers at bay.


Top of the list is to stay away from charities you’ve not heard of. If you know people in Turkey and Syria, they may be the best sources for finding out how you can help.

Scammers may well try to reach out to people from Turkey or Syria, using scam emails or phone calls to ask for money on behalf of friends and relatives. Social media contacts should also be scrutinised.

Lastly, scammers will be taking advantage of people with the best of intentions, googling for a way to help. Be careful of any results you find this way.

“At this point, I have not seen any active scams,” Ullrich says. “The unpredictability of earthquakes results in a lag between the event and the scam. We are monitoring respective scams, so please let us know if there is something you come across.

“Thanks to all the first responders helping people in need in the area. They will need our help, but please make sure to help them, not scammers.”

Closer to home, scammers recently began using the recent flooding in Western Australia to target victims. A number of fake charities were created last month, along with a range of online scams using social media to solicit donations.

“We strongly advise people in flood-affected areas to be extremely careful and not click on links or give out personal information such as bank details in response to random messages received via text or social media,” Western Australia’s Commerce Minister, Sue Ellery, said last month.

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth has been writing about technology for over 20 years, and has worked for a range of print and online titles in his career. He is enjoying getting to grips with cyber security, especially when it lets him talk about Lego.

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