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US government goes after Hurricane Harvey cybercriminals

The Department of Justice takes aim at online thieves behind fake Hurricane Harvey charities and phishing schemes.

Southeast Texas Inundated After Harvey Makes Second Pass Over The Region
Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall in Texas on Aug. 25, has dumped nearly 50 inches of rain in and around areas Houston.
Scott Olson / Getty Images

The US government is creating a group to take down Hurricane Harvey cybercriminals.

Online thieves and scammers are taking advantage of the natural disaster in Texas, where thousands have lost their homes and up to 29 people have died. Hackers have been spamming email inboxes with phishing attacks that claim to let you help victims, but actually steal logins, passwords, and in some cases, credit card information.

On Facebook and Twitter, scammers have also set up fake charity pages to steal money and data. The Federal Trade Commission issued a warning earlier this week against fake charities and phishing attacks related to Hurricane Harvey, as cyberattacks tend to spike around natural disasters.

On Thursday, US Attorney Abe Martinez said the government is creating a group to fight these online fraudsters, with a partnership between the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the IRS, the FTC and the ATF, as well as local and federal law enforcement.

"This disaster has brought and will continue to bring unprecedented human and financial loss to our communities, and victims of this event have already suffered staggering devastation," Martinez said. "The last thing that victims of this damage need is to be victimized again.

Martinez, who represents the Southern Texas district, said his department has received several calls about scams related to Hurricane Harvey, and he plans on taking them down. The Securities and Exchange Commission is also partnering with the group and requested all scams be reported to their tipline.

The Department of Justice recommended that victims report any scam attempts to the National Center for Disaster Fraud, which was created after Hurricane Katrina.

The DOJ will be going after online scams and phishing schemes, as well as fake insurance claims, identity thieves and looters. Even though the storm has gotten weaker, thousands of people affected by the hurricane are still seeking help in Texas.

There are several ways people affected by the disaster can find help online -- through legitimate sources like Airbnb and the Disaster Distress helpline. You can also donate to relief efforts through these verified websites

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