NEW YORK (CNN/Money) – It was only a matter of time before fraudsters saw fit to capitalize on the tsunami disaster that killed more than 150,000 people, and the FBI said Friday that time has come.
The bureau has received reports of Web sites that purportedly assist with collection and relief efforts to aid survivors of the natural disaster, but these sites really steal money from unsuspecting donors, spread computer viruses or steal personal information, an FBI statement said.
Complaints submitted to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which works in conjunction with the FBI, have identified several schemes including e-mails that offer, for a fee, to locate loved ones who may have been lost in the disaster.
Unsolicited e-mails requesting that money be deposited in overseas banks to support the tsunami relief effort have also been reported to the FBI, as well as SPAM messages that ask for personal or financial information in an effort to retrieve large amounts of inheritance funds tied up in relation to the tsunami.
A fraudulent relief donation Web site that, if accessed, can infect the user's computer with a virus was also found, the FBI said.
Consistent with previous guidance on Internet scams, the FBI recommends:
-- Do not respond to any unsolicited, spam e-mails.
-- Be skeptical of individuals claiming to be surviving victims or foreign government officials asking for help in placing large sums of money in overseas bank accounts.
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-- To ensure that contributions to U.S. based non-profit organizations are used for intended purposes, go directly to recognized charities and aid organization Web sites, as opposed to following a link to another site.
-- Be leery of e-mails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from know senders.
-- Anyone who has received an e-mail like the above mentioned messages or anyone who may have been a victim of a similar incident of fraud should notify the IC3 via the Web site, www.ic3.gov.