Online scammers are creating fake charity websites for victims of the Boston Marathon bombing and Texas plant explosion to take advantage of donors' grief and sympathy, authorities said.
"It’s sad but true. Following major disasters and tragedies, scam artists impersonate charities to steal money or get private information from well-intentioned taxpayers," according to a warning statement issued by the Internal Revenue Service. "Fraudulent schemes involve solicitations by phone, social media, email or in-person."
Donors should not send sensitive, personal information in emails or open links or attachments in unsolicited messages, authorities said.
The warning, echoed by other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, encouraged anyone seeking to make a donation to work only with known, reputable charities or to research any organization that seems to have popped up overnight.
Some scammers disguise fraudulent emails or websites to look identical to legitimate charity organizations.
Others register domain names or social media accounts to add a sense of legitimacy to their scams. The Department of Homeland Security warned that scores of domain names referencing the bombing were registered within hours of the explosions.
In addition, at least one Twitter account posed as the official Boston Marathon account and claimed it would donate $1 for each retweet it received. The account was eventually suspended.