Online scammers are exploiting the devastation of Hurricane Harvey and other natural disasters to try and make themselves some quick cash.

In times of huge crisis, people from around the world donate money to help the worst affected. However, this also brings out the crooks, who prey on people’s generosity for their own ends.

This trend was most notable during the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in the US, which caused more than 60 fatalities and saw 30,000 people displaced from their homes.

Shortly after the hurricane hit, there was a huge upward trend in the registration of new domains related to Harvey. Whilst many of these would have been set up by well-meaning people or those who genuinely want to help, a great many are still thought to have come from scammers trying to line their own pockets.

Seek out reputable charities

Advice for those thinking of donating to the Harvey appeal (or any that come in future) is to actively seek out reputable charities. This is a relatively straightforward process, with agencies such as the Charities Aid Foundation providing sufficient details. It also means donors can confidently give to smaller but still reputable charities, and don’t have to rely only on the big names they recognise.

Elsewhere, web users are advised to be careful about where they go for news and updates on disasters such as these. In the era of ‘fake news’, Buzzfeed found numerous falsehoods not just on social media, but otherwise credible news outlets also. In many cases, a fake story is concocted on a less popular website, then picked up and repeated by some of the larger, more established news agencies. In many instances, these stories are repeated verbatim, then served to a wide audience. Seeing it reported in two places, of course, then gives the story significantly more credibility.

Charities – just as with news outlets – should always be stringently fact checked, and certainly before any money changes hands.