NEW JERSEY (PIX11) — As aid continues to pour into Ukraine amid the Russian invasion, charitable organizations are stepping up their efforts to help.
But according to officials in New Jersey, scammers looking to exploit the crisis are also working overtime.
The New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness issued an advisory this week warning of so-called “bad actors“ looking to cash in. They’re luring unsuspecting victims who want to help refugees into handing over personal and financial information; in some cases, even coaxing them into downloading malware.
Over the past two weeks, officials report an uptick in scam activity, which they said is operating over emails, pop-up websites and text messages urging victims to “click a link.”
The victims in most cases are those over the age of 65.
Cathy Rowe, the executive director for New Jersey Advocates for Aging Well, said educating senior citizens about these scams has been a priority for the organization, especially at the height of COVID-19. According to the FBI, senior citizens accounted for $1 billion in losses due to scams in 2020 alone.
“Knowing that people were at home made people a little bit more emboldened to try it, and also it’s so easy now for the scammers through emails [and] robo calls,” Rowe said. “It has become so easy with technology to just keep this up.”
From glaring misspellings in emails to no-name organizations asking for money, the red flags are sometimes easy to spot, according to Amy Nofziger, director of victim support at AARP’s Fraud Watch Network.
“Criminals will sort of mimic a well-known charity and maybe just have one letter off,” she said.
Experts also urged users to be vigilant on social media where more scammers are now posing as friends.
“Don’t give to someone who is collecting for a friend of a friend of a neighbor or anything like that,” she said.