As Hurricane Harvey continues to wreak havoc in Texas, people now have one more thing to worry about — hackers trying to capitalise on the disastrous aftermath of the tropical storm. The US government has issued a warning to the public, cautioning them to remain vigilant against potential Hurricane Harvey-related charity phishing scams.
It is not uncommon for hackers to capitalise on a natural disaster to steal money in the guise of charity donations. The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US Cert) warned that hackers could send out emails with malicious links or attachments purported to be related to storm Harvey.
"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," US Cert said in a statement.
The natural disaster has already prompted some Hollywood stars to take to social media channels like Twitter and Instagram to pledge donations to those affected by the tropical storm. Celebrities like Kevin Hart, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ellen DeGeneres, Jenna Fischer, Amy Schummer and others have posted supportive messages, encouraging those affected to reach out to NGOs and others to donate.
While the devastation wreaked by the tropical storm is yet to be fully accessed, the hurricane has already claimed the lives of around 10 people and displaced thousands of others. The Guardian reported that nearly 3,000 people in Texas have been rescued by police and coast guard officials. However, officials believe that an estimated 30,000 people will still require shelter and nearly half a million people will reportedly need disaster assistance.
However, it is vital that people donate to legitimate organisations and not fall prey to scams. Instead of trusting messages or emails from unknown or even known sources, people are advised to directly reach out to organisations. US Cert has referred people to the BBB National Charity Report index, which can help people verify and "find trusted contact information for many charities".
The torrential rainfall caused by Hurricane Harvey has flooded numerous regions and forecasters reportedly estimate that some areas may experience a total of over 50in of rain, the New York Times reported.