Natural disasters have become a prime target for cybercriminals to exploit vulnerable individuals and organizations. Unfortunately, this trend continued with the recent earthquakes that occurred in Turkey. Cybercriminals have taken advantage of the chaos and devastation to scam unsuspecting victims.
As the world continues to face ongoing hurdles, the back-to-back earthquakes that struck Turkey have only added to the suffering of the affected communities. Since 2019, the country has faced eight powerful earthquakes with a magnitude over 5.0 causing significant damage to buildings and infrastructure, with the most recent ones causing further destruction and loss of life.
As Turkey grapples with the aftermath of these disasters, cybercriminals have been exploiting the situation to perpetrate scams and frauds. One of the most common methods is through phishing emails and messages, where criminals pose as organizations or charities to solicit donations. These emails often contain links to fake donation pages or ask for sensitive and personal information, which is then used for identity theft or other fraudulent activities.
Moreover, scammers are also using social media to prey on vulnerable people. They create fake accounts and pages on social media platforms. They post false information or emotional appeals, using fake A.I generated images, to lure unsuspecting individuals into donating to fake charities. It can go as far as fake websites offering medical and food supply relief through deceptive discounts.
In February, multiple news outlets reported that the Turkish police arrested 78 people for social-media posts about the deadly earthquakes, saying the messages were “provocative”. It was added “that 46 websites were shut down for running “phishing scams” trying to steal donations for the earthquake victims, and 15 social media accounts posing as official institutions were closed.”
Turkey has seen fraudulent activity before. Back in 2021, Turkey made headlines when 33 Taiwanese individuals were reportedly arrested in Istanbul for telecom fraud. It was reported that this group was trafficked to the country to carry out fraud targeting other people in Taiwan.
The Turkish government and law enforcement agencies have taken steps to combat these cybercrimes. The government has launched an awareness campaign to educate the public about the risks of scams and fraud related to natural disasters. These incidents continue to raise the need for stronger relationships between governments and telecom companies.
While technology is a huge asset in providing aid and help to victims, authorities continue to monitor and track down cybercriminals who exploit natural disasters. Authorities express the importance of protecting vulnerable victims from falling prey to these scams. While they are taking measures to combat these crimes, individuals and organizations must also do their part to protect themselves and others from falling victim to these scams. By remaining vigilant, taking proactive steps to prevent cybercrime, and using technology as a positive tool, we can help ensure that those affected by natural disasters receive the support and aid they need.