The U.S. government is warning people to be on the lookout for charity scams and phishing attacks in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.On 28 August, the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) issued an alert warning users about fraudsters who exploit tragedies like Hurricane Harvey for their own personal gain:“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. Fraudulent emails will often contain links or attachments that direct users to phishing or malware-infected websites. Emails requesting donations from duplicitous charitable organizations commonly appear after major natural disasters.”Harvey could dump as many as 50 inches of rain in some parts of southeast Texas by the end of August. As of this writing, at least 10 people have lost their lives to the storm, and over 30,000 have taken refuge in shelters set up around the state. Preliminary estimates suggest Harvey’s impact on the power grid, transportation, the labor force, and homeowners could reach $30 billion, reports Bloomberg.
A Texas National Guardsman carries a resident from her flooded home following Hurricane Harvey in Houston. (Source: Department of Defense)Currently, there are few (if any) publicly documented scams exploiting the storm. Buzzfeed came across one possible ruse where Twitter and Facebook users are urging Texans to call a telephone number if they face an emergency. That 1-800 number is actually a claims service for Foremost Insurance Group.Anyone who is truly facing life-threatening conditions should follow Houston Police’s advice and call 911.Please use 911 for life-threatening emergencies, and 311 or the HPD non-emergency number 713-884-3131 as appropriate. pic.twitter.com/lN4yThX1fH— Houston Police (@houstonpolice) August 27, 2017For those looking to help with the Hurricane Harvey relief effort, it’s important that people follow the Federal Trade Commission’s advice and choose charities that they know and trust instead of organizations that appear to have sprung up overnight. Here is a list of trusted national and local organizations. People should also make an effort to not click on any suspicious links or email attachments.Users can further protect themselves against phishing scams, including those that are Harvey-related, by clicking here.