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Earthquake Relief: Don't Get Hooked

Society's underbelly is exposed in the wake of Japan's disaster

In the aftermath of Japan's incredible 8.9 earthquake, monster tsunami and radioactive threats, good-hearted people worldwide are stepping in to help in any way they can. Unfortunately, others are jumping on the opportunity to take advantage of the innocence of humanity, using this mass devastation for their own personal gain.

Immediately after the quake, both the Internet Storm Center and the Internet Crime Complaint Center issued warnings via their websites regarding email scams and vicious malware sites that trap users who are searching the Internet for information about the disaster. So far, a reported 1.7 million malware sites linked to the disaster have been tallied. These sites may infect your computer with nasty viruses, or install programs that harvest your email address and personal information right out from under your nose.

As relief efforts are now fully underway, there are also countless scams being developed involving fraudulent charities that are calling for donations, but the money's not actually going where it's supposed to. Many official-looking funds have been set up, using names that are similar to those of actual established organizations, enticing trusting individuals to donate their money to a good cause ... but this hard-earned cash is actually being dumped into someone's personal bank account. (Now that's bad Karma!)

It should go without saying that we're appalled by the nerve of some people, using the extreme misfortune of others and the unsuspecting nature of humans to make a quick buck. But please, do not let these revolting scams get in the way of doing your part to help. Rest assured, there are plenty of options to do some good here:

1. Do your research

A quick Google check-up on the foundation you plan to donate money to can sometimes be all it takes to ensure your money is going toward the right cause. As always, it's best to donate to long-established organizations, such as the Red Cross, rather than organizations that have just been set up specifically for a one-off disaster.

2. Ask around

No doubt some of your trusted friends and loved ones have already donated their money to aid in Japan's relief efforts. Find out which organizations they've donated to, and if they were happy with or unsettled by their experience.

3. Protect your tech

Make sure your computer's virus protection is up to date so you don't get stuck with an onslaught of invasive viruses and malware.

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