The current fires in Southern California are causing misery to hundreds of thousands of people. ESET LLC calls San Diego home and is acutely aware of the impact this is having on people’s lives. Not only is ESET providing assistance to employees impacted by the fire, but some employees are volunteering their time and money to assist victims.
As is the case with all disasters there are good people rallying to help and bad people trying to exploit the situation for profit. It may be a good time to remind people about some best practices to make sure that the money you earmark for helping people goes to helping people.
First of all, do not respond to email messages soliciting donations, even from legitimate charities. These messages often are not sent by the charity itself. If you get an email from The American Red Cross and you wish to donate to this respected organization, do not use any information in the email as it may have been sent by a scammer that will redirect you to their fake Red Cross web site. Instead, look up the phone number for the Red Cross, or open your browser yourself and type in http://american.redcross.org.
If you want to donate to another charity that is perfectly fine also, but make sure they are legitimate and that a high percentage of the funds collected help the victims. A site that can assist you with determining the legitimacy and effectiveness of a charity is http://www.charitynavigator.org/.
Also, do not give cash to people claiming to represent charities. At LAX or other public places a person may approach you claiming to be collecting for victims of this or other disasters. They may even have impressive documents that are easily printed on a home PC. Some of these people are undoubtedly legitimate, but unless you are a psychic you probably won’t know. Take the information about the charity they represent and look it up before you part with your money. A few simple precautions will help prevent you and the victims you seek to help from being victimized.
Director of Technical Education
Author ESET Research, We Live Security