Scammers target Turkey-Syria earthquake: How to spot a fake appeal – MoneyMagpie
Sadly, scammers will always take advantage of global events, especially when natural disaster or war has occurred. They use people’s good will to profit from heartbreak and suffering. Although it may seem a sickening thing to do for most of us, there are cruel people out there.
Currently, fraudsters are latching onto the devastation of Turkey-Syria earthquake to trick people into donating to fake appeals.
The scams often claim to be raising money for survivors and those in need, however the money is funnelled away from real charities helping people, and putting the cash into their own pockets.
The disasters have killed more than 35,000 people, with thousands of survivors left without heat, water, food, their homes and their loved ones. That is why it’s imperative to make sure you are donating to a real cause, so financial aid can be used honestly.
Here are some of the scams to look out for and how to spot a real appeal.
Social media platforms can be used for good when raising money, as large audiences can be reached instantly. However, they can also be used to exploit tragedy, with fraudsters quick to con people.
On Twitter in particular, people are sharing images of the devastation, with links to cryptocurrency wallets. The emotive images, alongside text asking for donations, could be a trap.
According to the BBC, many of the images are not even real, with multiple images having been generated by AI, particularly pictures of firemen and other emergency service people holding young children as if they have been rescued. This AI-generated content makes it easy for people to appeal for money, without using photos directly from the event.
Some of these Twitter accounts have been spamming their pages with links to crypto wallets and PayPal. Many of the links were found to have been used on twitter during times of devastation previously, suggesting the scammers are using the same links for different world events, claiming they are for a specific cause.
Many Twitter users are also directing people to donate to the cause directly through PayPal. Scammers are creating fake fundraising accounts with links to PayPal accounts, which often turn out to be their own personal PayPal accounts.
Some PayPal fundraisers have raised hundreds in donations already. It is key to notice whether the fundraising page themselves has donated to the cause – if so, this could be to make the account to be legitimate.
It is imperative to note that PayPal has not operated in Turkey since 2016, and any accounts claiming to be in Turkey are likely not authentic.
Video-sharing platform TikTok is one of the most downloaded and used apps across the globe. During a TikTok Live, a real-time, live video in which content creators can interact with their followers, they can make money buy receiving gifts from viewers.
However, this is being used by con artists, who are looping videos of the devastation and news clips covering the events and asking for donations. This is just another way scammers are using emotive visual imagery to get people to hand over their money.
Some videos even consist of images from the recent earthquakes – well, so you’d believe. The BBC conducted a reverse-image search and found one of the images was first shared on Twitter in 2018.
How to donate safely
Although there are cruel people out there trying to profit from disasters through fake relief pages and fundraisers, this shouldn’t stop you from donating to a real charity or fundraiser, should you wish to help.
It is important you look up charities before donating to them, particularly smaller or lesser-known ones. You can search the UK charity register. If you suspect a scam or uncover what you believe to be fraudulent activity, report it to Action Fraud and to the social media platform so they can remove it.
Be aware upsetting and distressing images, videos, sounds and language are used to encourage donations. Take a step back before donating and do your research. Do not rush into anything.
If you choose to donate to a charity or to the governments of the countries affected, research them directly. There are many fake social media accounts claiming to be associated with different charities and organisations – donating directly can avoid your money going into a scammers pocket.
If someone calls you asking you to donate, ask lots of questions. A genuine charity or organisation will be more than happy to answer any questions you have and take the time to go through your concerns. If a caller seems impatient and eager to get your donation, hang up. Always hang up if you are unsure.
You can find other ways to help the Turkey-Syria earthquake relief via the government website. Click here.