Scam Alert -- Malaysia Airlines Tragedy Used by Spammers

July 28, 2014

How the Scam Works:

You are on Facebook, and a post catches your attention. It appears to be from the account of a Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash victim, and the post seems to link to information about the tragedy. 

You click the link, thinking it leads to a news website. But instead of news, you get a barrage of spam ads for online gambling and other similar products.

Scammers love to take advantage of the hype surrounding major news stories -- especially tragedies. In addition to impersonating victims or family members on Facebook, con artists also post teasers for "sensational" video footage relating to the event. Click the link, and you may be prompted to "update your video player" (scam-speak for download malware) or take a survey before viewing.  Doing either of these can open you up to identity theft or give scammers information (such as email addresses and cell phone numbers) they can sell to spammers. 

Scammers also post sensational or emotional content as a way of collecting "likes" on a Facebook account. After enough "likes" and comments, they can turn around and sell the account for a profit.

Tips to Protect Yourself From "Click Bait" Scams:  

Take the following steps to protect yourself and others from scam links shared through email and social media: 

  • Don't take the bait. Stay away from promotions of "exclusive," "shocking" or "sensational" footage. If it sounds too outlandish to be true, it is probably a scam.
  • Hover over a link to see its true destination. Before you click, mouse over the link to see where it will take you. Don't click on links leading to unfamiliar websites.


For More Information

Read the Canberra Times' original coverage of this scam.

To find out more about scams or report one, check out BBB Scam Stopper.


This Scam Alert has been sponsored by Western Union, a BBB National Partner.