Hurricane Harvey scammers use phishing campaigns to trick donors, FTC warns

With the death toll at 30 and Hurricane Harvey destroying swathes of Texas and Louisiana, scammers are taking advantage of sympathy from people interested in donating money to the relief effort. Over time, this has proven a common and effective scam around the time of natural disasters and other tragedies.

As a result, the FTC released  a warning on Monday that fake charities are seeking trick people into opening phishing emails or click on social media links that aim to steal information, get fake donations or infect devices with malware.

The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) issued a reminder asking users to be suspicious of donation requests for victims of Hurricane Harvey and “exercise caution in handling any email with subject line, attachments, or hyperlinks related to Hurricane Harvey, even if it appears to originate from a trusted source.”

To avoid falling victim to Hurricane Harvey scammers, users are encouraged to:

  • Double check the websites and names of charities they are donating to. Useful websites are Charity NavigatorCharity WatchGuideStar and Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.
  • Only donate to reputable charities registered in their state.
  • Avoid names that seem to have popped up overnight.
  • Verify legitimacy first; do not click on suspicious links or open suspicious emails.
  • Do not trust social media messages, as they may not be legitimate.
  • Do not reveal personal information, bank accounts numbers or credit card numbers online or via email.
  • Be suspicious of charities asking for donations through PayPal payments.
  • If donating via text, confirm the number with the source before sending the message.

About the author


From a young age, Luana knew she wanted to become a writer. After having addressed topics such as NFC, startups, and tech innovation, she has now shifted focus to internet security, with a keen interest in smart homes and IoT threats. Luana is a supporter of women in tech and has a passion for entrepreneurship, technology, and startup culture.