Everyone involved in the DaniWeb community, from the membership right through to the management, would like to offer sympathy and support to those suffering as a consequence of unfolding events in Japan. Unfortunately, some despicable types just see such tragedy as an opportunity to scam the kind-hearted majority out of cash that should be heading to those who need help.

As if the 8.9 magnitude earthquake which struck Japan, just north of Tokyo, last Friday wasn't bad enough, that was quickly followed by a devastating tsunami which has literally washed away some coastal towns and caused an unthinkable loss of human life. Amidst all this chaos, the lack of power and backup power, along with structural damage suffered by the Fukushima nuclear plant amongst others has led to explosions at three of the four reactor buildings and consequential radiation leak.

US-CERT has warned members of the public to be on the alert for email scams, fake antivirus and phishing attacks based around the earthquake and tsunami disaster. In that warning, first issued immediately after the tsunami struck and the scale of the tragedy became clear, CERT predicted that it would act as a magnet for the kind of online low-life that sends spam with malicious links, or puts out fake appeals for charitable donations. It would appear that CERT was, sadly, correct.

Security vendor Sophos has reported one such scam which is circulating and claims to originate from the British Red Cross. According to Sophos the email has a subject line of "Japan Tsunami Appeal | British Red Cross" and appears genuine , apart from the not so small fact that it asks for donations to be made via a service called MoneyBookers and wants that money to go to a random looking Yahoo email address. As Graham Cluley from Sophos points out, you should visit "the British Red Cross's official website if you wish to help the people of Japan" rather than respond to the equivalent of a very shady looking cold caller knocking on your door and asking for cash.

Finally, with the nuclear power plant radiation leak fears gaining increasing coverage on global news reports, it should perhaps come as no surprise that this is the latest subject matter to catch the attention of those with no hearts. The Register reports that bogus text messages claiming to originate from the BBC are spreading widely in the Philippines (a country which was on tsunami alert after the Japan earthquake struck). Rather than being a scam designed to coax money out of kind people though, this time it seems the whole thing is just intended to spread alarm. Quite probably someone thinks it is a joke, no matter how sick, to spread false rumor that radiation from the Fukushima plant has reached the Philippines and warn people to stay indoors. The Philippines government is not amongst them, and has issued a denial through the Department of Science and Technology explaining that the messages are a hoax.

So, members of the DaniWeb community and the wider Internet beyond, please do all you can to help the Japanese people in this time of need. But do ensure that your help is not being diverted into the pocket of evil and sick scammers.

DaniWeb advises that people should visit an official website of a charity if they wish to respond to an appeal and donate money, even if that desire was prompted by an official looking email appeal. Indeed, even if the email is genuine we would advise that you manually enter the charity site URL in your browser rather than click a link in your email, just to be extra safe. Alternatively, use a one-stop donation finding service such as Charity Navigator . It offers lots of additional advice to help ensure your money not only doesn't end up in the pocket of a criminal, but does end up doing some good. Charity Navigator advises that you avoid giving to newly formed charities, for example, and instead donate to an established charity with a track record of working within Japan in order to ensure that, in the midst of a crisis such as this, your money is targeted where it is needed most.

About the Author

As Editorial Director and Managing Analyst with IT Security Thing I am putting more than two decades of consulting experience into providing opinionated insight regarding the security threat landscape for IT security professionals. As an Editorial Fellow with Dennis Publishing, I bring more than two decades of writing experience across the technology industry into publications such as Alphr, IT Pro and (in good old fashioned print) PC Pro. I also write for SC Magazine UK and Infosecurity, as well as The Times and Sunday Times newspapers. Along the way I have been honoured with a Technology Journalist of the Year award, and three Information Security Journalist of the Year awards. Most humbling, though, was the Enigma Award for 'lifetime contribution to IT security journalism' bestowed on me in 2011.

Yeah, it's sad but true that the market is often flooded with scams immediately after any kind of disaster. It's up to goodhearted people to take the time to research who they are donating to. Really, if you're going to donate to anyone (or get important information from anyone) you should go to them, not the other way around.

Scammers are scum, but idiots who buy into the scams are only pitiable. The road to hell is paved with.....

I wonder why scammers choose to scam during after a disaster happened. But after all, it pays to do some research on who you are donating to first to avoid being scam

Scammers are scum, but idiots who buy into the scams are only pitiable

That's a pretty harsh statement. Not computer savvy? Maybe. Idiots? Definitely not. There is a thin line between idiocy and innocence...

I agree with sos. The people who are being scammed should be pitied and not calling them idiots, they are devastated enough that their money was cheated, but now calling them an idiots is like rubbing salt into wound. Bad boy, frogboy77

They are certainly not idiots, just caring people who want to help.

Being a caring person who wants to help does not negate being an idiot.
I work very hard for my money and give regularly to a number of charities, but i try to do as much research into how much of my money will make it to the people i am trying to help before i donate.

Being a caring person who wants to help does not negate being an idiot.

Non sequitur; idiocy and caring nature are two orthogonal things.

I work very hard for my money and give regularly to a number of charities, but i try to do as much research into how much of my money will make it to the people i am trying to help before i donate.

Again, doesn't related to the discussion here since I already mentioned that these people are non-computer-savvy who normally don't inspect "mail headers" like we do and would be more than convinced to see a "Japan Red Cross" name in the "From" field...

stand up little ants....you are the very quick people those who show your man-power
You can rebuild as more than last....
kind people until living the world around...
you are not alone..
their hands always with innocent happy because of help 2 you.....

Most of them are cheated as they did not research to who they are donating. Does anyone wants to have a donation drive and donate to the survivors in japan

I'm pretty sure many people have already done this. But in case there are some who still want to donate but are not sure which avenue to choose, I'd recommend the disaster help page hosted by Google. That way you can directly donate to the Japan Red Cross and be sure that you are using trusted means to do so (Google).

Thanks for te link sos. But are you going to donate to the Japan Red Cross

Yes, I already have, from the same page.

Also, I've created a thread along the same lines to guide people in case they are interested in helping out. I would be nice if you could donate (any amount would help) and help spread the word by posting in that thread.

Ok, i have already donate around $ 100. Even though it is a small amount, it is the heart that counts. I have already posted in your thread.

I hope that i can contribute to this post..as i can see here great fears had been bagged down japan for a while they been affected by these natural disaster that hit their country. Big crisis had been totally risen up. But as we all know that japan is a strong country they cannot be put down by a single shot. life is like a music that each lyrics had its own meaning and every melody had a great contribution for each and every singers that express that this is what life is all about, we should learn how to flow very freely in every life that counts.

Welcome to daniweb darrylneiman, just to give you a warm welcome. You might want to help by donating money are items to the red cross. Anytime it may happen to us so we have to sympathise the japanese and not take this advantage and mock them of their ill luck

It is shocking what scammers do. But always be weary of who you trust, there is a saying, don't part easily with your money. Meaning do research and yes listen to your instincts, or sixth sense. It is almost always if not always right. Do not be naive. It still shocks me to see how trusting people can be. But to call them idiots, OUCH

Being a friendly person who wants to help does not deny being an idiot.

I work very hard for my money and give regularly to a number of charities, but I try to do as much research on how much of my money will go to the people I try help before paying.