Hackers, scammers prey on Australian bushfire fire charities

Hundreds of cybercriminals have tried to exploit the Australian bushfires to enrich themselves with online scams. Here’s how to fight back.

The bushfires have brought out the absolute best in much of the community, but we’ve also seen some of the absolute worst behavior from online criminals.

Scammers have impersonated bushfire victims online to solicit donations, they’ve set up fake charity pages and even hacked into legitimate donation sites to steal credit card details from kindhearted donors.

This season’s Australian bushfires have received worldwide attention as some of the most destructive ever. They’ve claimed the lives of 30 people and more than a billion animals. so far

While significant amounts of rain have helped dampen down the threat for now, almost 19 million hectares (46 million acres) have been burnt, and 2690 homes lost.

Donations flowing in from around the world

The bushfires – or ‘wildfires’ as the Americans call them – have seen a global outpouring of sympathy, much of it expressed in the form of donations to fire services, relief and cleanup efforts.

GoFundMe pages have taken half a million separate donations and raised more than $30 million so far, while high profile cryptocurrency organizations such as CoinTelegraph and Binance – which donated $1 million in BNB – have also stepped into help.

Corporate donors have stumped up $180 million and comedian Celeste Barber has raised an astonishing $51 million on her own.

But anywhere there’s money flowing freely, you’ll find scammers trying to get a cut.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has received almost 500 reports of bushfire related scams so far.

Hacks and online scams include:

  • A fake page for 60 year old Wonthaggi bushfire victim Bill Slade was set up on the website Donorbox, pretending to raise money for his funeral.
  • Sixty people donated a combined total of $4000 to a fake online fundraising page on GoGetFunding for father and son Robert and Patrick Salway before it was shut down. They died tried tragically trying to save the family’s property at Cobargo.
  • And Mawarebytes found that a legitimate bushfire relief charity to help victims around Lake Conjola – where 89 homes and three lives were lost – had been targeted by hackers. The hackers planted MageCart Javascript on the checkout page and used software called ATMZOW to steal the credit card details of the donors. The investigators tracked the stolen card details to another website called Vamberlo [.com] which has since been shut down. Unfortunately, they report that the ATMZOW software is currently installed on almost forty other sites.

ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said  that people wanting to donate should double check first if an organization is a registered charity via the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission.

If you come across a bushfire scam, report it to the ACCC hotline 1300 795 995.

The outfits behind these scams can be fined up to $1.1 million per breach and $250,000 per individual.

Donate now to the Crypto Fire Alliance

If you would like to donate cryptocurrency then check out the Crypto Fire Alliance, which has been set up by Finder.com and HiveEx.com to process bushfire relief charity cryptocurrency transactions fee free.

It has formal authorization to raise money for the following charities: the NSW Rural Fire Service Association (RFSA), Australian Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund, and WIRES.


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