Consumer Alert: Scammers are capitalizing on the Ukraine crisis. Here’s the key to smart giving

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — We all have been deeply affected by images of the suffering in Ukraine, and you likely want to help; but unfortunately, that’s exactly what scammers are counting on.

According to Tessian, an email security company, the number of websites containing the word Ukraine is up 210% from last year.

That’s more than 300 new website domains every day. And get this. Tessian researchers believe 77% of those sites are likely scams. Often the fake site has a name similar to the name of a legitimate organization. For example, the Ukrainian Red Cross Society is a real organization, but is a scam.

In a recent blog post, Tessian writer, Charles Brook exposed the scam.

The website looks legitimate. It features the Ukrainian flag being held by alleged aid workers sitting in the back of a tractor-trailer that has come to the rescue. A click of the donate button takes you to a page where you’re given the option of donating using three types of cryptocurrency. That’s a big red flag. The site explains that “due to the financial restrictions in Ukraine, we have made Crypto an alternate payment option.” But the scammers misspelled Crypto. That’s another red flag… note that "crypto" is misspelled.

The experts at Tessian say scammers are also sending donation requests through email.

"In this particular case what we’re seeing is the rise and adoption of QR codes in fraudulent scam emails,” said Paul Laudanski, Tessian’s head of threat intelligence. “In this particular instance, the QR code when you scan it, it prompts you to open up a particular app. It’s called Cash App on your phone. And that app allows you to take your money so you don’t need to have any cryptocurrency at all. You can take your money and send it to a bitcoin address."

So here’s Deanna’s Do List for smart giving:

  • Be suspicious of any unsolicited emails.
  • Be suspicious when an alleged charity asks for donations in cryptocurrency.
  • QR codes have been lifesavers for legitimate charities, but be careful about the website the code takes you to. It should take you to the charity’s site, not Cash App or any other peer-to-peer payment site.
  • If you’re solicited on social media, research the organization on the website Charity Navigator or Guidestar.

These websites are fantastic because not only can you see whether a charity is legitimate, but you can also find out how much of their donations actually go toward the mission and not salaries and overhead. And by the way, if you want to support the Red Cross efforts in Ukraine, it’s best to give to the International Federation of Red Cross or the International Committee of the Red Cross in Ukraine.

Yes, it’s clear. Ukraine needs our help. And smart giving assures your money gets to those who need it most.