July 21st 2014
The Malaysia Airlines crash in Ukraine has become the latest topic of online scams, designed to exploit unwitting people's curiosity and sympathy.
As if the crash of Flight MH17 – killing all 298 people on board – together with its circumstances and the events following it, have not been traumatic enough, fraudsters have exploited the situation by setting up bogus victim Facebook pages and posting scam Tweets.
A supposed link to a video of the aircraft crashing was posted on a Facebook page dedicated to one victim, 28 year-old Liam Sweeney (shown here), one of two Newcastle United fans travelling to watch their team play in New Zealand. The sole post – which reads 'Video Camera Caught the moment plane MH17 Crash over Ukraine' -actually led to a pornographic website. Similarly, a large number of tweets have been posted appearing to report or comment on the disaster, but the links are to bogus websites. Visiting these websites will lead to questions trying to steal your confidential financial information, or infection by various forms of malware.
It is commonplace for spammers and scammers to exploit any globally-reported event – particularly a crash or natural disaster – by trying make money from it.
Richard Cox, Chief Intelligence Officer of anti-spam body Spamhaus, told the BBC: "It is a fairly rapid and predictable response by the individuals behind it. They are all to make money. There is no compassion involved." Mr Cox added that the fraudsters may be using software that detects social media trends and reposts relevant posts using the same hashtags.
Our advice is to not click on links in emails or on social networking sites unless you are absolutely certain of their authenticity.