Warning about crisis-related online scams

September 18th 2015

Today,we are warning you to be vigilant for scams relating to the current Syrian/Iraqi and refugee crises.

For information and advice on spotting and dealing with spam and scam emails, click here
For information and advice on how to donate to charity safely online, click here

The scams can be perpetrated via unsolicited approaches by email, phone, in persons or via other means which make a direct appeal for financial help, seek charitable donations or highlight traumatic events and situations. Such scams are commonplace during crises caused by warfare, political unrest and natural disasters.

The scams can take three main forms:

   – Direct emails or text messages and sometimes social media posts claiming to be from individuals caught up in civil war, being persecuted by terrorist factions or fleeing to seek a better life in another country. In approach and style, these approaches are reminiscent of ‘419 scams’ which typically emanate from Nigeria and should be ignored. If the approach is by email or text, they should be deleted.

   – Seemingly official emails, text messages, social media posts and phone calls claiming to represent charitable organisations working to provide relief for victims of civil war, persecution and starvation, and perhaps to re-house migrants. Such unsolicited approaches should be regarded with extreme caution, however authentic they seem and however traumatic the situations they describe.

   – Invitations by emails or social media posts to view traumatic or sensational footage or images connected with the migrant crisis or situation in Syria and Iraq. By clicking on such links, you are in danger of ending up on a fraudulent website designed to capture your confidential details with the intention of committing fraud or identity theft. Similarly, clicking on attachments can lead to the automatic download of spyware and other malware.

Tony Neate, Chief Executive of, commented: “Since the Syrian refugee crisis we have been seeing a number of phishing emails from fraudsters purporting to be caught up in this terrible tragedy and asking for money to help relocate to a place of safety.  Sadly, cyber criminals will use any opportunity to try and trick people into handing over money and often that is by hiding under the guise of a these very emotive issue and taking advantage of other’s well-meaning kindness. Particular caution should be taken to spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organisation.”

In no way do we want to deter people from donating money to those in who are need as the crisis in Syria continues but we urge them to make sure they donate to legitimate organisations and charities. The safer option is to always donate directly through the charity’s website, that way, you know your money will go towards those who really need it.”

Sarah Atkinson, Director of Policy and Communications at the Charity Commission, said in a regulatory alert: “There are laws around collecting money for charity in public which are there to protect donors and make sure that the money raised goes to a genuine charitable cause. Follow our advice to make sure that whether you give online, by phone or in person you are giving safely.”

For advice from the Charity Commission on safe donations to appeals for victims of these crises, visit


By Get Safe Online

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