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Online Criminals Utilize New Internet Scam Targeting Asian Countries to Manipulate Grief in Earthquake-Stricken Turkey and Syria

Online Criminals Utilize New Internet Scam Targeting Asian Countries to Manipulate Grief in Earthquake-Stricken Turkey and Syria

Cybercriminals are leveraging the humanitarian catastrophe less than 24 hours after two big earthquakes in Turkey and Syria killed hundreds of people. Cybercriminals never stop trying to con internet users, and the most recent attempts discovered by Bitdefender Antispam Lab once again demonstrate how shady they can be.

Fraudsters are preying on the kindness of people around the world who want to donate a small amount to help those affected by this catastrophe, even though thousands of people were killed and tens of thousands more are still searching through collapsed buildings for those trapped under the rubble. The con artists pretend to be representatives of a Ukrainian charity foundation that is soliciting donations to aid those impacted by the natural disasters that occurred early on Monday.

“We are launching support the people of Turkey and Syria who have been hit badly with The Ongoing Earthquake, this has displaced many families and children, leaving them homeless. WLADIMIR FOUNDATION has taken it upon herself to render first hand Aid on ground to help as many people as possible… We are urging you to please donate to Victims”

With the majority of the phishing emails coming from IP addresses in Pakistan, the initial batch of studied samples mostly targeted recipients in South Korea (49%), Vietnam (19%), the US and India (with 7% each), Denmark (3%), Ireland (2%), Germany and the UK (with 1% each), and Vietnam (1%). Our investigation indicates that these con artists are luring victims with a phony organization with roots in Ukraine. Our anti-spam and anti-fraud filters have already added the domain hosting the so-called Wladimir Charity Foundation to their blacklist. It was created on October 3, 2022.

The fraudulent organization, which was originally created to aid the victims of the war-torn Ukraine, appears to have temporarily changed its stance by accepting donations in cryptocurrency for those affected by the tragic earthquake. Even though it calls itself "the top online fundraising platform in Ukraine," a short scan of the website reveals that the Ukrainian Armed Forces have only received $4,000 in donations. However, one of the Bitcoin cryptocurrency wallets reveals older transactions starting in May 2021 totaling up to $100,000.

This fake charity's name and cryptocurrency wallets were previously utilized in an earlier spam campaign that asked for donations for Ukrainians who had been displaced by the war. Our analysts discovered that as of December 29, 2022, a similar hoax was going around. This is just the beginning of a barrage of deceptive and false messages. Every time a natural disaster strikes, fraudsters try to take advantage of people's weaknesses and feelings by preying on the empathy of the online community to steal money and personal information. Although these nefarious deeds are nothing new, they can be very successful in taking money from trusting and charitable people.

Bitdefender advises customers to be wary before sending any charitable donations through unsolicited mail. Users should use caution if they see communications that have been poorly redacted or that appear to be from an unauthorized source. People who want to assist individuals in need should do their homework on legitimate charities and get in touch with them directly through designated, legitimate means. Bitdefender remains to be a strong ally in anti-phishing activities and Bitdefender Total Security is a recommended tool to prevent becoming a victim of cybercrimes such as these.

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