Some of the images we’ve seen recently of the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria have been heartbreaking. So far, more than 35,000 people have lost their lives, and those that have survived are facing a bitter, homeless winter. But some people have been taking advantage of this and, according to a BBC report, have been using AI-generated images to create fake donation pages online.
These scammers are channeling honest donations away from the people who actually need them into their own PayPal and crypto wallets. The cover image above was one such scam that was posted 8 times in just a few hours on Twitter. Neither firefighter nor child exists, they were created by Midjourney.
AI isn’t great yet at some of the fine details. It’s fairly obvious when you know what to look for, the overall style is very AI image generator. The other clue is the 6 fingers on the fireman’s hand. According to further investigation, the crypto wallet had been involved in previous scams.
Other scammers have set up fundraisers on TikTok, where viewers can donate gifts. Aside from the fact that many of these are fake and use fake or AI images and videos, allegedly, TikTok itself pockets 70% of all donated gifts anyway. Either way, your money is not getting to the people who actually need it.
Another one to watch out for is the use of PayPal, which hasn’t been used within Turkish borders since 2016. “They create fake disaster relief accounts that appear to be legitimate organizations or news outlets, but then drive funds to their own PayPal addresses,” says Ax Sharma, cyber security expert at Sonatype, to the BBC. “There are real charities outside of Turkey using PayPal, but when these fundraisers say they’re in Turkey, that’s a red flag,” he says.
The best way, as always, is to donate directly via trusted charities such as Red Cross, Medicins San Frontiers, or through local collection points. Often times charities are seeking donations of actual products such as sanitary items and winter coats and blankets rather than just financial donations. It’s hard sometimes to spot scammers, but by being aware that they are operating, you can be better assured that you are helping the people who need it most.