It’s no secret that scammers will often capitalise on breaking news stories to lure unsuspecting victims into their online traps.
And the Malaysian Airlines story, that at the time of writing is still quite the mystery as to what happened to the plane and where it is, has provided ample bait for online scammers everywhere.
So here are 4 ways scammers are exploiting the story. Most of these methods are nothing new, they have just been adapted to accommodate this particular story.
BREAKING NEWS: INSTALL THIS VIDEO UPDATE FIRST
Two words that you see on a Facebook link and alarm bells should be ringing straight away. Breaking News.
These two words will capture the attention of any social media browser, and thus are used often with scammers to lure readers from social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to external websites, where they are promised to see breaking developments of a particular news story, in this case the Malaysian Airlines story.
But wait, before you can watch the breaking news story, you first have to download a video update so your media player can play the video. But lurking in that video update is malware, which duly infects your computer with nasty stuff that can do any number of unwelcome things to your computer.
It’s a well-worn scam that has been tricking victims for years. We have a full article on it here – but the bottom line – don’t download updates of any kind in order to watch videos. Only update your software from trusted sources.
Examples specific to the Malaysian Airlines story include “news” that the wreckage has been found, and that lives have been saved.
BREAKING NEWS: COMPLETE THIS SURVEY FIRST
This variant works very much in the same way as the above scam, only the end game is much different. Instead of infecting a visitor’s computer with malware infected nastiness, the visitor is told that they need to complete a survey (and share the webpage) in order to get the breaking news.
This is known as a survey scam, which involves a victim handing over all their personal information to a spammy “rewards” company where they are essentially making themselves the target to lots more spam. Only to then find the breaking news promised at the beginning doesn’t even exist.
Specific examples include a link floating around Facebook that claimed the Malaysian Airlines flight was found in the Bermuda Triangle! Read about survey scams here.
Like-Farming is the process of accumulating fans for a Facebook page through spamming users with a combination of fake, immoral and pointless posts and photographs, in the hope that they go viral and attract followers.
Like Farming spammers will exploit anything to attract fans to a page, so expect to see a flurry of “share this post” messages related to the Malaysian Airlines story that will try and lure readers into liking a Facebook page.
More information on Like-Farming can be seen here.
Undesirable Google Results
When there are lots of people using Google and other search engines for specific information, in this case information on flight MH370, then a typical scam may involves scammers creating fake websites designed specifically to rank high in search engines for specific key phrases related to the story.
If a search engine user lands on such a website, that site can use any number of tactics to lure the visitor into downloading harmful software onto their computer.
The best defence against this is being wary of what sites you click on for your news and to stick with the reputable outlets. Security software that can pre-emptively scan web links (like our recommended computer protection) is also a bonus.
Also watch out for….
Fake donation webpages, that falsely purport to be raising money on behalf of the victim’s families, or to help with search and rescue operations.
And if you have downloaded any suspicious software to your computer, run an antivirus scan straight away with your up-to-date security software. If you’re looking to upgrade your computer protection click here for our recommendations.