Officials Warn of Katrina Relief Web Scams

Wednesday, September 7th 2005, 10:16 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ At least 4,000 Web sites claiming to be Hurricane Katrina relief funds have popped up on the Internet and top U.S. law enforcement officials warned Tuesday that many could be fraudulent.

The number of Katrina-related sites has more than quadrupled in the past week, according to FBI officials.

``A devious few have sought to take advantage of our collective generosity,'' Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said at a news conference to highlight the government's efforts to combat fraud.

The FBI has so far reviewed 2,100 sites, of which 60 percent are foreign and thus more likely to be bogus, said FBI assistant director Chris Swecker.

There have so far been no arrests. As of last week, the FBI had opened eight criminal investigations of suspect domestic sites. Swecker said the number of probes has grown a lot in recent days, but he declined to be specific.

The Justice Department has a Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force looking especially at phony charities, identity theft, insurance scams and government benefit fraud. The American Red Cross, the relief group most frequently copied in Internet scams, also is working with authorities.

Officials again urged donors not to respond to unsolicited e-mails and to give only to well-known charities.

``If it doesn't look right, chances are it's not,'' assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher said.