Auckland earthquake email hoax debunked by New Zealand media

New ZealandInternet users in New Zealand have reportedly received emails, spreading a sick hoax that claims an earthquake is predicted to hit the city of Auckland on Sunday, April 17th.

A typical email reads:

Next earthquake announced April 17 will hit Auckland

There is about 88% chance within the next days Auckland will be hit by an earthquake according to National Earthquake Information Center from New Zealand. This news was released today after more predictions related to the Christchurch earthquake. Read more here or on www.nzherald.co.nz

However, the email has been debunked by the NZ Herald newspaper, which has confirmed that it is a hoax.


 

Received an email claiming an earthquake prediction for Auckland and pointing to our site? It's a hoax: http://t.co/qU7Zq7Z

Residents of New Zealand would obviously be highly alarmed by such a warning, as the country is recovering from a devastating earthquake which hit the South Island city of Christchurch in February.

Internet users are advised to be suspicious of unsolicited messages, making predictions of natural disasters. If you receive such an email, do not click on any of its links (as they may be malicious) and instead turn to legitimate news outlets for information.

Remember that email hoaxes are not harmless, and can have serious consequences. You can learn more about the many internet hoaxes and chain letters on Sophos’s security hub.

Fake Donations for New Zealand Earthquake Victims

On February 22, 2011, a massive 6.3 magnitude earthquake devastated the New Zealand city of Christchurch. As per the official reports, the death toll has reached 75—a number that may yet increase. Thousands of people in New Zealand have lost their homes and search operations are still in progress. Fraudsters, as usual, are taking advantage of this by sending spam mails that request donations. In January, phishers had used the same ploy of asking for fake donations for victims of the Serrana floods.


 

The phishing site spoofed the Red Cross website for New Zealand and requested help from end users. Firstly, the phishing site gave details of the earthquake, highlighting the extent of the damage in the city. Secondly, details on how to make a secure online donation were given. Users were notified that upon making an online donation, the user would receive a receipt by email for tax purposes. There were three credit card services to choose from.

To make the donation, users were required to enter certain confidential information. The first field was a drop down menu from which the user had to select the cause for which the donation would be made. The causes included New Zealand Earthquake 2011, Annual Appeal 2011, Australian Floods Fund, Landmine Appeal, Pacific Disaster Preparedness Fund, and General Fund Appeal.

The confidential information required was email address, postal address, credit card number, three digit security number, card expiration date, four digit PIN code, driver license number, and date of birth. Upon entering the required information, the Web page redirected victims to the legitimate Red Cross website. The phishing site was hosted on servers based in Wien, Austria.

Internet users are advised to follow best practices to avoid phishing attacks:
•    Do not click on suspicious links in email messages.   
•    Avoid providing any personal information when answering an email.
•    Never enter personal information in a pop-up screen.
•    Frequently update your security software, such as Norton Internet Security 2011, which protects you from online phishing.

 

Note: My thanks to the co-author of this blog, Ashish Diwakar.