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Red Cross E-Mail Confusion

There seems to be some confusion over a statement that someone at the American Red Cross made on a news program last night, to the effect that the Red Cross does not solicit donations via e-mail.

A couple of people have written me asking "what gives?" after receiving an e-mail apparently from the Red Cross directing them to a donation Web site run by Convio, an Austin, Texas-based company that provides online services for nonprofits. One guy told me that after hearing the newscast he canceled a credit-card donation he had just made on the Convio site, for fear that he may have just donated to an online scam artist.

As I noted in yesterday's post, Convio is one of a handful of sites that the Red Cross has authorized to accept donations on its behalf. This is primarily because is trying to distribute the massive Web traffic load generated by so many people trying to reach the site all at once, according to a conversation I had earlier this morning with the organization's chief information security officer.

The official line from the Red Cross is that they are sending solicitations through e-mail to people who have given through their site at some point in the past. If you do not have a prior relationship with the Red Cross, the e-mail you received is most likely linking to a scam site.

But this whole confusion is another great example of why it is a good security practice simply to avoid clicking on links in e-mail. Anytime you receive an e-mail directing you to visit a Web site -- especially one urging you to pull out your credit card -- the safest option is to open up a Web browser window and enter the address of the site manually.

By Brian Krebs  |  September 8, 2005; 1:24 PM ET
Categories:  Safety Tips  
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