Beware email scams related to Nepal earthquake

Online scammers are using the earthquake in Nepal to direct Web users to fraudulent websites, the Department of Homeland Security warned.

The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) issued an alert about phishing emails that could inject a user’s computer with malicious software if he or she clicks on a bad link or downloads a fraudulent attachment.

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“Phishing emails and websites requesting donations for fraudulent charitable organizations commonly appear after these types of natural disasters,” the office wrote Thursday.

People who want to verify unknown emails related to the earthquake can review the Federal Trade Commission’s guidance on scam charities, and should maintain up-to-date antivirus software, US-CERT said.

Recipients of the messages should avoid clicking on Web links or attachments because they might be dangerous.

A devastating earthquake hit Nepal on Saturday and is believed to have killed more than 6,100 people. The quake triggered avalanches and landslides, as well as aftershocks.

Phishing emails are one of cyber criminals’ most effective and frequent tools of attack. They work by playing on recipients’ trust and causing them to click on bad links or attachments which infect their computers with malware.