In light of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and the subsequent tsunami warnings in Hawaii and on the US West Coast, McAfee is warning consumers about a number of online scams that have appeared within hours of these devastating events.

Sadly, scammers seem to come out of the woodwork during a natural disaster to catch consumers when they’re in a panic, looking for answers, and when they’re most vulnerable. People should not click on links or respond to phishing e-mails for relief donations that ask for credit card numbers or other personal information. In addition, be wary of tiny URLs on social media services and posts on social networking sites. Hundreds of domains that could be related to the disaster have been registered so far today, including a scam site that appeared within just two hours of the earthquake.

Follow these guidelines to ensure that donations to victim relief efforts are sent through legitimate sites:

.Org domains are cheap. Registering does not indicate charitable status in any way. Verify that the organization is actually a registered charity by typing the URL directly into a web browser.

Domain solicitations that arrive by unsolicited email, especially those sounding overly urgent or desperate, are very likely to be scams.

Be aware that donation requests made via advertising banners can also be scams.

If you’d like to help, support one of the major international organizations that have a “most in need” fund such as the Red Cross.

Robert Siciliano is a McAfee Consultant and Identity Theft Expert. See him discussing how to protect yourself from identity theft on CounterIdentityTheft.com. (Disclosures)

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