FBI WARNS OF FAKE SITES FOR CHARITIES
Date: Sat, 10 Sep 2005
Subject: [Chicago_Gang_History] FBI WARNS OF FAKE SITES FOR CHARITIES
FBI warns of fake sites for charities
By Andrew Zajac Washington Bureau 36 minutes ago
Hurricane Katrina has spawned more than 2,000 Web sites dedicated to collecting money for hurricane relief, the vast majority of them designed to defraud their on-line visitors, the FBI's top cyber-crimes official said this week.
"At the close of business last Friday, there were 400. On Tuesday there were 900. It's now approaching 2,300," said Louis Reigel III. "It's growing astronomically. ... We can't keep up."
Reigel said the bureau has waded through about one-third of the sites that have turned up so far. More than half have overseas electronic addresses or some other tie to a foreign location that is usually a tip-off that the charity is bogus.
Because sites sprout up faster than the FBI and other agencies can shut them down, Reigel said the best hope for drying up donations to fake sites is publicity and education.
"Do not donate to any Web site you do not know," Reigel said.
He also counseled against giving money to any purported charity that solicits money via e-mail. "Go to a known Web site and initiate the contact," Reigel said. Established charities collect money online, but they do not send out e-mail solicitations, he said.
Besides seeking money, an e-mailed request for money can also contain a virus that gives a cyber-intruder access to a person's entire computer.
Some of the phony sites mimic the appearance of the Web sites of well-known charities.
The FBI has opened eight criminal investigations of fake Internet-based charities, but to date no one has been charged.
The push is part of a Justice Department effort to combat an array of hurricane-related fraudulent activity, including identity theft and insurance and government benefit fraud.
State attorneys general also are investigating the scams.
Reigel said fraudulent online charities first popped up in significant numbers in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Their numbers greatly expanded in the wake of December's Indian Ocean tsunami.
But in barely more than a week, Katrina sites already outnumber all of those set up to cash in on the tidal wave.