updated 3/15/2011 6:50:09 AM ET 2011-03-15T10:50:09

Online criminals are using the horrific New Zealand earthquake to scam compassionate, generous people out of money.

A week after a 6.3 magnitude earthquake rocked the city of Christchurch in New Zealand, killing an estimated 240 people, online bad guys launched a phishing scam to prey on sympathetic supporters looking to help out citizens left homeless by the disaster, the security news site Help Net Security reported.

The scam is particularly devious in that it copies the official New Zealand Red Cross website to trick people into donating money online.

The online donation attempts to solicit the donor’s credit card numbers and expiration date, three-digit verification on the back of the card, as well as the user’s four-digit PIN code.

To make that information even more valuable to criminals, the scam asks for the donor’s name, e-mail address, driver’s license number, phone number and date of birth.

Handing over that amount of personal information would give an online criminal virtually unimpeded access to your finances, e-mails, social networking profiles — anything you wanted to be kept private would become vulnerable.

Help Net Security urges people to be “instantly suspicious of any website that asks you to share your credit card PIN code.”


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