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Internet Scams Related to Hurricane Katrina

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Johns Hopkins Response to Hurricane Katrina

Internet and Email Scams Related to Hurricane Katrina

September 2, 2005

You may receive e-mails from individuals who call themselves lawyers or "barristers" - the English equivalent of lawyers - alleging that they are searching for next of kin and soliciting personal information in order to contact you in connection with accidents and possible payouts.  Please ignore these e-mails.  They are scams seeking your identifiable information.  If you have further questions, please contact Joanne Pollak in the JHHS Legal Department at 4-3322.

Thank you.

 Joanne E. Pollak
Vice President & General Counsel
Johns Hopkins Medicine

Dear Faculty, Staff and Students:

Hurricane Katrina has already been listed as one of our nation's greatest disasters. Unfortunately, online criminals have already begun to exploit this disastrous situation. E-mail is again being used by criminals from around the world to exploit honest, caring individuals who want to help the disaster victims. These unscrupulous criminals often use "phishing" schemes to gain the trust of the public.   Phishing schemes have become much more complex and harder to spot.  Many phishing e-mail messages you receive will come addressed to you by name and can be highly personalized. The personalization comes from data gleaned from various sources. The criminals attempt to use their possession of that information as leverage to trick you into revealing even more valuable information.
The combination of a personalized e-mail with a link to what "appears" to be a legitimate site (e.g. Red Cross, Salvation Army, etc.) tends to pull at the heart strings and pocket books of unsuspecting, caring individuals. There are many ways to help in this and other disaster situations. Responding to e-mail messages containing links to web sites generally only lines the pockets of the criminals.  You should avoid visiting sites linked through e-mails from individuals you do not know. It is easy to set up a site that "looks" like a legitimate support organization and gain your confidence. Site names that "sound" legitimate (e.g. Katrina Relief Fund) may in fact be fraudulent. If you wish to donate using an online site, go to official sites that you may already be familiar with, (e.g. or or etc.).

 *What is Phishing?*
Phishing is a method used to get you to reveal personal  information to fraudulent sources. Phishing has usually been accomplished by sending e-mail to you in an effort to persuade you to log in to a supposedly reputable site to provide or "verify" your confidential account information or other confidential personal data.

 *What can you do to protect yourself?*
Do not respond to an e-mail message requesting you to provide or  "verify" your personal information. Financial institutions and other legitimate businesses generally will not send e-mail requesting that type of information. If you believe that such a message could be legitimate, check by calling the company or institution in question at a phone number that you know to be legitimate. Suspected phishing can be reported to or you can simply delete the message from your mailbox.

More Information

Anti-Phishing Working Group

 Federal Trade Commision 

Federal Emergency Management Agency

Mike McCarty