Beware of scammers taking advantage of the Boston marathon tragedy

18 April 2013

SCAMwatch is warning consumers to be alert to scammers looking to take advantage of the Boston marathon explosions with malware or donation scams.

Scammers are circulating spam emails that purport to contain links to websites with information on the recent Boston explosions, but in fact contain links to malicious content that may infect and allow scammers remote access to your computer.

Scammers are also reportedly sending emails, creating websites or using popular social media platforms to try and lure in donations that they claim will go to helping victims of the explosions. Instead, the scammers pocket the money and the victims never receive the aid.

Don’t let scammers taking advantage of tragedies, take advantage of you.

How these scams work

Malware scam

  • You receive an email out of the blue that claims to contain links to web pages associated with the Boston marathon explosions. The email may have titles such as ‘Boston Marathon Explosion: Exclusive Video’ or ‘2 Explosions at Boston Marathon’. The email contains links to potentially malicious content.
  • If you click the email link, after a short delay a pop-up alert may appear, advising that you have chosen to download an executable file (ending in .exe) and asking if you want to save it.
  • If you click on the pop-up alert, your computer may be infected by malicious software, which will allow scammers remote access to your computer.

Charity scam

  • You receive an email out of the blue from someone soliciting donations for victims of the Boston marathon explosions.  Alternatively, you come across a website, or social media profile or account, which claims to be seeking donations for those in need.
  • In all of these cases, the scammer may have gone to great lengths to convince you that they are the real deal. The email, website, blog or tweet may appear to come from a reputable charitable organisation. The scam websites may have an official-looking domain name, web address and design.
  • If you pay, your money will not only be lost, but much-needed donations will have been diverted away from legitimate charities and causes.

Protect yourself

  • If you receive an email out of the blue from a stranger claiming to have information or news on the Boston marathon explosions, do not click on any links or open attachments – just press ‘delete’.
  • If you want to access footage or information about major or breaking news, use a reliable news source rather than an unknown web link – there are many reputable online news sites where you can safely access credible information.
  • Always keep your computer security up to date with anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a good firewall. Only buy computer and anti-virus software from a reputable source.
  • If you think your computer’s security has been compromised, use your security software to run a virus check. If you still have doubts, contact your anti-virus software provider or a computer specialist.
  • If you are considering making a donation to a charity, cause or appeal, approach the organisation directly using their official contact details to make the payment.
  • Never give money or your financial details to someone you don’t know - it’s rare to recover money from a scammer.
  • If you think your banking or financial details have been compromised, contact your financial institution immediately.


You can report scams to the ACCC via the report a scam page on SCAMwatch or by calling 1300 795 995.

More information

For more information on donating safely to Australian charities, visit the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission website.

See SCAMwatch’s malware and charity scams sections for more information on how these scams work and how to avoid them.

Stay one step ahead of scammers, follow @SCAMwatch_gov on Twitter or visit

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