Experts: Beware of online scammers in wake of Orlando tragedy

Experts: Beware of online scammers in wake of Orlando tragedy

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - By Janelle Guerrero-Miguel

Online scammers will try to use the Orlando shooting as an opportunity to create fake charities for profit, a Honolulu cybercrime expert said.

A legitimate GoFundMe site set up for the victims of the shooting, the worst in U.S. history, has already garnered more than $2.6 million.

That type of response, experts say, means scammers are sure to exploit the tragedy for their own gains.

Chris Duque, internet crime specialist for the city Prosecutor's Office, said criminals can pose as friends on social media and urge others to donate to scam charities.

Hackers can also create fake social media accounts simply by taking a person's picture and obtaining personal information that's already public.

Duque said that scammers will create fake websites.

One way to spot a fake: Put your mouse over the link (without clicking it) to see whether the web address looks legitimate.

And beware. Some fake websites appear real, Duque said.

"Sometimes they will also use a link to say it's like a legitimate website, like gofundme," he said. "But when you check the link, it may say 'gofundme,' but it actually redirects the user to another website."

Duque says there are some ways online users can protect themselves against fake charity scams.

One tip: Make your Facebook friends list private.

"It's just one of the methods that they use to create fake Facebook accounts by looking at your friends list," Duque said.

Keeping your friends list private will also protect your friends from being potential victims.

Duque also urged computer users to browse the web safely.

"One thing that I caution users whenever they go online, before they start surfing the net, make sure their anti-virus, anti-malware, all this security software is running and updated," he said.

Duque added to be truly safe, you shouldn't even give your credit card or bank account information to a legitimate charity. Instead, he suggests web users purchase a pre-paid card and put a limited amount of money on it.

If you feel that you have been scammed, call police. Take a screenshot of the fake website and keep any other records.

Duque said you should also contact your bank and credit bureaus immediately.

The best advice, Duque said, is if the charity does not seem legitimate, do not donate.

"Let's stay safe online. Just be vigilant," he said.

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