Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Scams Abound After Boston Marathon Bombings

In the aftermath of the deadly bombings Monday at the Boston Marathon, a number of web sites claiming to offer funds for victims appear to be scams.

According to the Internet news site TheDomains, more than 20 of the 125 domains that were registered after the bombings appear to be illegitimate. Michael Berkens, editor of TheDomains, wrote in his piece that many of these sites, such as Bostonmarathonrelief.com, have been registered by individuals rather than legitimate charities.

“While we don’t know every registrants' intention, we do know historically that many of the domain names registered immediately after were done to get traffic and make money parking domains or worse,” wrote Berkens.

Bostonmarathonrelief.com claims to be raising $25,000 benefiting the American Red Cross (ARC). As of this writing, $20 has been donated. A spokeswoman for ARC told The NonProfit Times that the site is in no way affiliated with the organization. The site is registered to a man in Fort Worth, Tex.

Scams also appeared on social networking platforms. Shortly after the bombings, a Twitter handle  masquerading as an official account of the Boston Marathon sent out a tweet claiming it would donate $1 to victims for every retweet. The account, @_BostonMarathon, was suspended by Twitter, according to The Huffington Post.

“Tragedies inspire people to give,” H. Art Taylor, president and CEO of Better Business Bureaus Wise Giving Alliance, said in a press release, “but, tragedies –- whether natural disasters or manmade catastrophes –- also inspire scammers to take advantage of that generosity. Social media, in particular, makes it very easy to reach a lot of people quickly, when emotions are running high and people feel the need to take action, any action, to help.”

Charity scams after national tragedies are not exactly a new phenomenon. After the Newtown, Conn., shootings resulted in the death of six-year old Noah Ponzer, an e-mail was sent to individuals asking for donations that would be sent to Ponzer's family. Upon learning of the bogus solicitations, Ponzer's uncle alerted authorities who put an end to the scam.

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