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    Most times it is but when faced by true horror do we see the best within ourselves and within others, and also the worst. The depths people are willing to sink into just for money is appalling.

    For the longest time no calamity or tragedy has occurred that was not used or in any way exploited by cyber criminals for their own gain. Be it natural calamities like Hurricane Katrina, the California forest wildfire, accidents, political disputes, or tragic deaths.

    Recent incidents such as the earthquake in China is no different, and like any other tragedy it has triggered two human instincts that depict the best and worst of human nature: (1) to help, and (2) to take advantage.

    Now in the midst of the mourning in Sichuan, another tragedy unfolds as cyber criminals prey on those who yearn to help victims survive this latest dreadful ordeal. In one report scammers sent out text messages enticing people to send donations to fund the aid for helpless victims. And today we were also able to catch a sample of a spam message allegedly from a Filipino seeking financial aid to follow his wounded wife in China.

    Here are the first and last portions of the long-winded letter designed to get merciful recipients to take action, i.e. donate money:

    Figure 1. The letter starts off as a heart-wrenching plea for help.

    first part of spam

    Figure 2. The letter ends with the sender’s email address should readers wish to contact him and give him money.

    last portion of spam

    These schemes, much like during those that surfaced during previous tragedies, are surely only some of the many that will continue to use this ploy.

    In an even more tragic turn, we came across reports that the official Web site for donations to the eathquake victims in China, the Chinese Red Cross, has itself been hacked to divert donations elsewhere. This irony is startling, as it precludes us from encouraging users to donate only to legitimate organizations.

    We thus recommend users to remain extremely cautious in extending their help. Opt for means where they can keep a closer watch of who gets the donation and where it goes.

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