The FBI has alerted the public to a variety of online scams asking users to send money for the victims of the recent tsunami disaster.

Over the past week, complaints about the scams have come into the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center.

The FBI said the IC3 has received reports of websites being set up allegedly to assist with collection and relief efforts for the victims of the natural disaster. Some of the schemes being used by the scam sites involve unsolicited e-mail asking for monetary donations. Another involves a fraudulent relief donation site that contains an embedded Trojan exploit that can infect computers with a virus.

And some users who have posted messages and e-mail addresses on the Web looking for missing loved ones say they have been contacted by people offering to help them for a fee.

The FBI said it would be "aggressively pursuing those who would attempt to victimise philanthropic individuals". It declined to provide specific examples of the scams but instead offered some advice:

  • Do not respond to any unsolicited spam regarding the disaster.
  • Be sceptical of individuals claiming to be surviving victims or foreign government officials asking for help in placing large sums of money in overseas bank accounts.

  • To ensure that contributions to non-profit organisations are used correctly, go directly to the websites of recognised charities and aid organisations, rather than following a link to another site.
  • Attempt to verify the legitimacy of non-profit organisations by using various Internet-based resources to confirm the existence of the organisation as well as its non-profit status.
  • Be wary of e-mail that claims to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files, since the files may contain viruses. Open only attachments from known senders.

Anyone who has received an e-mail referencing the above information, or anyone who may have been a victim of this or a similar incident, should notify the IC3, the FBI said.