Scammers preying on Notre Dame donors, security experts warn

Experts warn donors against contributing to phony fundraisers in Notre Dame fire aftermath.Scam artists prey on do-gooders by creating legitimate seeming pop-up websites.Those who wish to contribute are encouraged to do so only through official sites linked to reputable entities.The ashes have not yet cooled and global scam artists are already preying on donors who have pledged nearly $1 billion to restore the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, after a fire Monday ravaged the historic structure, toppling its iconic spire and damaging centuries-old works of art.

Many online fundraisers, of course, are legitimate, but for almost every authentic effort to raise money for the cathedral’s restoration, there’s a crook seeking to capitalize on the mass devastation. And so security experts and nonprofits alike are issuing warnings to those who wish to contribute to this — or any — charitable cause.”These kinds of scams are proliferating globally,” said Alan Brill, a cyber risk expert at Kroll, a global consulting firm. “And the thing that’s so depressing is the scammers are so good at taking advantage of tragedy that they have a playbook,” he added, pointing to a page on fundraising site that he suspects is phony.
Reads the anonymous user’s plea: “I am doing this in response to the Notre Dame Fire for Friends of Notre-Dame De Paris Inc. because I want to support and help Notre Dame.”There are no measures in place that prevent bad actors from soliciting donations for phony causes online. “The nature of the internet is such that bad people can set these sites up within minutes. They can grab photos and videos from news sites anywhere and create a very convincing site and they can lie,” Brill said.The Better Business Bureau also issued a warning to do-gooders, urging them to “wait to donate” until an official rebuilding fund is established “to make sure donations are going to the official Notre Dame rebuilding fund and not into the hands of scammers.”Beware these three types of scamsThere are three different kinds of scams that tend to crop up in concert with headline-grabbing events like Monday’s fire. Some fraudsters plant bogus links to unrelated sites in the comments sections of social media posts about the tragedy and are paid for “click-throughs.””They are stealing your click to earn money from your activity,” Brill explained. The second, more dangerous type of fraud takes place on sites that purport to raise money for charity, but are really designed to obtain unsuspecting individuals’ personal credit card information. Other scammers operate by creating links that ultimately direct people to a legitimate, charitable site, but are used to intercept and steal personal information.How to donate to repair Notre Dame after devastating fireFrench billionaires donate nearly $500 million to rebuild cathedralWine lovers raise nearly $1 million for Notre Dame rebuild efforts “They know how to get the URL, they know how to set up the website, and they use that website to do anything from stealing your money and your credit card information to delivering malware to turn your machine into a zombie to access whatever they want,” Brill said.Simply put, they are ready to pounce. Not to worry, though, Brill notes that these kinds of attacks are largely avoidable, as long as you think before you click.