SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — The Springfield Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is warning the public of charity scams regarding the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The FBI has recently received reports of Israel-based individuals getting their emails hacked or possibly impersonated (“spoofed”) in order to solicit donations, officials said.

Such scams, also known as disaster fraud, tend to become more frequent in times of war and widespread tragedy, FBI officials said. Criminals pose as members of charities associated with current conflicts to exploit those who want to support humanitarian efforts. Collected funds are then put toward the perpetrator’s personal uses or criminal enterprises.

FBI officials said social media is a popular way for foreign terrorist organizations to establish fake charities and fund their operations. They can call for donations through posts, emails, cold calls, or crowdfunding website requests.

“Charity scams can prey on both local communities and vulnerable populations devastated by life-altering catastrophes,” Special Agent David Nanz said. “If you think you have been targeted by a charity scam, report the incident. The FBI is committed to preventing scams and protecting the public from their devastating impact.”

Officials with FBI Springfield shared a few tips to avoid getting scammed:

  • Visit charity websites directly, rather than clicking on fishy links from unsolicited emails.
  • Be wary of “charities” that require payment via cash, gift cards, wire transfers, or
    cryptocurrency. Criminals often encourage untraceable payment methods, which also makes it difficult to get reimbursed.
  • Research new charities.
  • Verify phone numbers or email addresses before donating.
  • Double-check the website URL. Scammers often participate in “domain spoofing” or “URL hijacking,” creating look-alike websites with similar URLs.
  • Use the Internal Revenue Service’s website at https://www.irs.gov to see if the charity is registered.

To report charity scams and cases of disaster fraud, visit IC3.gov, call 1-800-CALL-FBI, or call FBI Springfield at 217-522-9675.