The Türkiye-Syria earthquake became a chance for scammers


Large number of fraudsters and weak-minded people saw the earthquakes in Syria and Türkiye as an opportunity to try to deceive people by donating to fake causes, which prompted security experts to warn against them.

These fraudsters claim that they are collecting money for the benefit of the survivors who are now living in the open without heating or drinking water after that disaster that killed more than 35,000 people.

Instead of helping those in need, scammers transfer these donations to their personal PayPal accounts or to their cryptocurrency wallets.

The BBC revealed in a detailed report the methods used and the precautions to be taken in this regard.

On TikTok, where content creators can collect money by receiving digital gifts, today TikTok accounts posted pictures of destruction, duplicate videos of rescue operations that were shown on television, and accompany them with a request for a donation, and among the phrases that are used to urge people: “Let’s help Türkiye”, “Pray for Türkiye”, “Donate to the earthquake victims”.

There is live broadcast extended for more than three hours, and showed poor aerial photos of the destroyed buildings, accompanied by sound effects through which you hear the sound of explosions, and behind the camera, we hear the voice of a man laughing and speaking in Chinese, while the phrase: “Help Türkiye and donate” appears on the video.

In another video, an image of an afflicted child is shown as he runs away from an explosion, and the message sent by the owner of the live broadcast reads: “Please help achieve this goal,” in a clear plea for gifts from TikTok.

However, the image of the boy doesn’t belong to the earthquake that occurred during the past week, as a search for the date of the image revealed that it was published on Twitter in 2018.

To warn against giving gifts via TikTok: After an investigation conducted by the BBC, it was found that TikTok receives 70% of the proceeds of digital gifts, although TikTok denied this and admitted that it received a much lower percentage of this percentage.

Commenting on this issue, the official spokesperson for TikTok told the BBC the following: “We deeply regret the occurrence of this devastating earthquake in Syria and Türkiye, and we contribute to supporting relief efforts after the earthquake, and we are also actively working to prevent people from defrauding members of this community and misleading those they want to help”.

There are people sharing evocative images with links to cryptocurrency wallets and asking people to donate.

One account posted the same appeal eight times in 12 hours, with a photo of a firefighter carrying a small child amid collapsed buildings.

However, the image he used isn’t real, as a Greek newspaper published that the image was made using artificial intelligence through the Midjourney application to immortalize Major General Panagiotis Kotridis of the Aegean Fire Brigade.

However, AI applications that create images often make mistakes, so it wasn’t long before Twitter users discovered that this firefighter has six fingers on his right hand!

To investigate this further, the BBC’s technology research center, known as the Blue Room, attempted to produce similar images using the same software.

Thus, he gave those who work in that center an instruction for the program, which stated: “A picture of a firefighter after an earthquake saving a young child, wearing a helmet, and displaying the Greek flag with him”.

According to experts, these accounts repost news articles and respond to tweets posted by celebrities or business owners so that people can see them interacting and sharing.

They create fake accounts for disaster relief that appear as if they represent legal organizations or news channels, but those accounts draw funding for their PayPal addresses.

As an example of such accounts, there was one called @TurkeyRelief who joined Twitter last January, has only 31 followers, and promotes donating via PayPal, and their PayPal account has even received $900 in donation so far, but this amount it includes $500 from the page’s creator who donated to the cause, so it’s being done a fundraiser that looks real.

This is one of more than 100 fundraisers that have launched PayPal accounts in the past few days asking people to donate in support of those affected by the earthquake, but some of those accounts are fake.

Therefore, donors should beware of accounts that claim to be in Türkiye, because PayPal has stopped working in Türkiye since 2016.

Other things to beware of are anonymous donations and appeals that have raised small amounts, because real charities raise huge amounts, and most PayPal fundraisers have small amounts of less than £100.

Here, PayPal should stop those accounts that rely on fraud and deception, but a PayPal spokesperson told the BBC: “While the vast majority of people who use PayPal to receive donations have good intentions, inevitably there are some who are trying to make a living”.

For the love of doing good and benevolence and for the generosity of people.

Therefore, the PayPal team is always working hard to check accounts and ban them, especially after events such as the earthquake in Syria and Türkiye, so that donations reach the relevant causes.

Twitter recently suspended @TurkeyRelief account, and Twitter Company didn’t respond when asked to comment on the matter.

In conclusion, and in order to avoid scammers and donate while safely, the following steps are needed to be taken:

  1. Searching for the name of the charity in the registry at the country in which you reside.
  2. If you suspect any fraud, report the fraud via the social media platform you are using.
  3. Beware of language, images, or videos that blackmail by arouse human emotions.
  4. Some scammers claim to represent a real association or government of a country, so if you want to donate to any association or government organization, search for their official website, and donate directly to them.
Share it...

Leave a Reply