BBB Issues Alert About Robin Williams Death Scams

August 14, 2014

BBB Scam AlertA variety of scams tied to the recent death of comedian Robin Williams are making the rounds online.  Connecticut Better Business Bureau urges consumers to be careful on social media sites and with links in texts and emails.

Scams that have been identified encourage recipients to click on links to hear his last words in a “goodbye video,” see a purported suicide note and make donations to phony charities in Williams’ name.

These sorts of ruses quickly follow tragedies that range from natural disasters to celebrity deaths.  Whenever a story dominates the news, scammers take advantage of the public’s interest with online photos, stories and social media links that claim to offer sensational details.  

The criminals’ goal is to get potential victims to click before they think, in a tactic called “click baiting.”  They also exploit tragedies by posting teasers for sensational video footage or photos, offering exclusive insider information,” impersonating family members or charities, and selling memorabilia.

Links to phony content may be booby-trapped with malicious software that can take control of your computer or gain access to your contacts and other private information.

BBB warns consumers about clicking on such links, downloading pictures or purchasing commemorative souvenirs, unless you are on an established website with built-in buyer protections.

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:
BBB urges consumers to take steps to protect yourself from scams shared through email and social media: 

  • Don't take the bait - Stay away from promotions of "exclusive," "shocking" or "sensational" footage.
  • 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.
  • Don't trust your “friends” online - It might not actually be your friends who are "liking" or sharing scam links to photos.  Their accounts may have been hacked, and scammers could be using another tactic called “clickjacking,” another technique that scammers use to trick you into clicking on links that you usually ignore.

Better Business Bureau recommends visiting trusted news sites directly by typing in the organization’s name, rather than clicking on a hyperlink in emails from friends, texts and social media links.

Before responding to any charity solicitation, do your research at BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance at, and to learn more about scams or to report one, check out BBB Scam Stopper.

Founded in 1928, BBB Serving Connecticut is an unbiased, non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior, and is one of 112 local, independent BBBs across North America.

For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust.  In 2013, people turned to BBB more than 132 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 4.5 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at