It’s a troubling fact of life in 2014, when a major tragedy occurs, online scammers will try to take advantage of it. That’s what happened this week when it was revealed that fake Facebook profiles had been set up using the names of several victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, shot down over the Ukraine late last week.
The fake Facebook pages contain links to a blog purporting to contain information about the plane crash. However, once users click through, they are bombarded with pop-up ads that help the cybercriminals turn a profit on their enterprise. Some of the sites can also target infect visitors’ computers with malware. Perhaps most disturbing of all, three Facebook profiles were even set up using the names of young Australian children who perished in the crash.
“Crooks are super-fast these days at picking up on anything that’s remotely topical, and working out how to monetize it from a criminal point of view,” said Alastair MacGibbon, director of the University of Canberra’s Centre for Internet Safety in Australia, while speaking to the Canberra Times. “You’re really dealing with a base type of person who uses the name of a person recently deceased in a tragedy to monetize. But that’s why they’re criminals and we’re not.”
If you see any links on Facebook in the coming days and weeks that purport to have exclusive information or video of the MH17 crash, it’s best to avoid clicking it. It’s sad, but this scam likely won’t be the last to try and capitalize on the tragedy.