Hurricane Harvey ripped through Texas this weekend, killing at least eight people, and rain continues to cause flooding throughout the area. If you're looking for ways to help those affected by the catastrophe, it's important to make sure you're donating to organizations actually helping victims. And because cyber scams are common after disasters, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a warning Monday to watch out for “malicious cyber activity” trying to take advantage of people's charitable giving after the hurricane.
"Users are advised to exercise caution in handling any email with subject line, attachments, or hyperlinks related to Hurricane Harvey, even if it appears to originate from a trusted source," the DHS warning said. "Fraudulent emails will often contain links or attachments that direct users to phishing or malware-infected websites."
To make sure you don't fall for a hurricane-related phishing scam, the DHS says to avoid following unsolicited web links in emails, opening email attachments, and to keep your antivirus and other computer software up to date. If you receive an email from what seems like a nonprofit seeking donations, contact the organization directly to make sure it really exists (you can also check to see if it's listed on this national charity report).
In general, it's best to always be skeptical of random emails with attachments or links, as they're often easy ways to spot a cyber scam. But it doesn't hurt to be extra vigilant when there's an even higher risk than usual of phishing scams circulating.
If you're donating your money to help victims of Hurricane Harvey, you want to make sure it actually gets to the people who need it. To start, check out this list of local and national organizations assisting Harvey victims if you want to give financial help.
And remember: Don't open sketchy emails or send your money to people or organizations you've never heard of.