As Japan continues to struggle with the aftermath of a devastating 8.9-magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami, individuals, companies and organizations around the world are rushing to help in any way that they can. Unfortunately, there is another group swooping in as well, although not to aid the people of Japan, but rather to exploit and profit off of the country’s crisis.
These individuals immediately started registering domain names related to the disaster the moment it hit the news. Many of them then proceeded to create fake websites with links to third-party payment sites, in order to trick the good Samaritans of the world into thinking that they are making donations to tsunami relief efforts, when, in reality, the money is going straight into scammers’ pockets.
An example of such behavior can be found at donatetojapan.org, which appears to be a legitimate donation site. It even features a Facebook “like” button. The giveaway is that the site lacks any actual content or affiliation to an official charitable organization.
For now, if you would like to make a donation, your safest bet is to go through an organization’s official website, such as www.redcross.org, in order to ensure that you do not fall victim to a scammer’s plot. The New York Times has a list, with links, of Aid and Charitable Organizations through which you can donate to relief efforts in Japan, which can be found here.
Below is a sample set of the domains that have been snapped up in the wake of the crisis; all were registered on March 11, 2011. We limited our research to high frequency search terms and the .COM and .ORG TLDs. Had we gone deeper, we would have found many more domain names like the ones below:
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