The State of North Carolina is warning citizens that threats to mislead and defraud via email are surging in the wake of Hurricane Florence.

“Criminals posing as volunteers or disaster relief agencies will try to cheat you during a disaster, and especially during relief efforts,” State Chief Risk Officer Maria Thompson said Thursday. “Make sure you are donating to legitimate agencies if you choose to help. Don’t let your guard down.”

The state says the number of malicious emails – some including viruses – sent to government websites had surged 60 percent in the days following the hurricane.

“Cybercriminals often take advantage of natural disasters such as hurricanes to solicit personal information illegally and to take advantage of vulnerable infrastructures, disaster victims, and volunteers,” Thompson’s office warned. “People should remain skeptical about any email solicitations they receive at home or work, Thompson said.”

The state recommends taking several steps to guard against threats:

  • Carefully look at email and web addresses since cybercriminals will make them look as legitimate as possible, often using variations of spellings. The URL may have a different domain, such as .gov instead of .net.
  • Do not click on links in emails from anyone unless you know and have verified the sender of the email.
  • Take time to look at the sender’s email address. Do not click on any links until you are certain the organization is real. Check the organization’s website for its contact information and use sites such as to verify a charity organization.
  • Make sure your all anti-virus software is up to date and that you have enacted the anti-phishing software provided by your email client.
  • Phishing emails and phone calls may also try to pose as official disaster aid organizations such as FEMA. A true FEMA representative will never ask for personal banking information, a Social Security number, or a registration number.