Authorities last week were investigating a scam e-mail message circulating widely under the guise of a donation request from charities involved in Sept. 11 relief efforts.
The message appeared to be from the American Red Cross, United Way and September 11th Fund, but it was not, according to a statement published by the Red Cross.
Also, the e-mail reportedly contains a computer virus called Septer. Trojan, according to Symantec Corp., a company that helps the Red Cross with information technology security. Symantec alerted the Red Cross on Oct. 17.
The virus is contained in an executable file attached to the e-mail. When opened, the attachment creates an online donation form asking for personal information including credit card data. Once completed, the form uploads the information to a non-Red Cross Web site.
While executives at the charity do not know how many people might have been taken in by this scam, they suspect many people have received it.
“Some of my friends have gotten it across the country,” said Phil Zepeda, spokesman for the American Red Cross.
He warned that any e-mail appearing to come from the Red Cross at this time is a fraud and should be deleted.
Though the Red Cross sent e-mail to about 30,000 previous online donors Sept. 14, it has not sent any since then.
Also, the Red Cross does not rent its donor e-mail list, so it would be a coincidence if any of the scam e-mails reach actual Red Cross donors, Zepeda said.
He added that the organization probably won't contact any of the hundreds of thousands of new online donors who contributed to the disaster relief until after the new year.