Better Business Bureau: Watch for scammers in times of tragedy

December 19, 2013 

Anytime someone dies tragically, you can count on scam artists to take advantage.

The latest example is the Nov. 30 death of popular actor Paul Walker, known for his portrayal of street-racer Brian O'Conner in the Fast & Furious movie series. Scammers have jumped at the chance to exploit this recent tragedy for monetary gain.

Often, the creators of these scams will blanket social media networks with posts and messages promising users gory video footage of a star's demise or exclusive pictures of a crash scene. These kinds of scams are particularly pervasive due to their macabre nature, and people's willingness to share the message, unknowingly spreading the scammer's message.

Reports on the current "shocking video" scam can be found from Hoax-Slayer, Las Vegas Guardian Express, Softpedia and many other media outlets.

Usually victims who fall for this scheme are prompted to click a link in a news feed story or message on Facebook, a tweet or direct message on Twitter, or even a link in an email sent to their personal address.

Facebook users are often prompted to install invasive applications that will access their personal information and send the scam message to all their friends. Other times, the scam message prompts the victim to install malicious browser extensions or malware that can be used to hijack the victim's computer.

These often involve survey scams that ask victims to complete bogus surveys to view the "accident footage" or claim a reward.

It's important for those who follow celebrities online to know that it's not only tragedy footage, but everyday footage, that is used. It's important to keep a few things in mind to avoid falling prey to exploitative scammers.

Ranked in order, here are the top ten most dangerous celebrities to search for, as tracked in 2013, according to McAfee:

1. Lily Collins

2. Avril Lavigne

3. Sandra Bullock

4. Kathy Griffin

5. Zoe Saldana

6. Katy Perry

7. Britney Spears

8. Jon Hamm

9. Adriana Lima

10. Emma Roberts

BBB advises consumers to follow these tips to protect their computer from malware:

• Research before you click. Before clicking on an unknown popup, take the time to research the company on your own to assure it's reputable.

• Don't believe the message. To persuade you to launch a virus-laden link or provide your personal information, virus authors must earn your trust. They try to accomplish this by composing convincing-looking messages that entice consumers to click the advertisement.

• Protect your personal information. Don't provide your personal information or credit card information to an unknown company or website. If you're thinking of purchasing something from a website, there are various icons and software programs that indicate that security software is in place, such as "https" instead of "http" or a padlock icon at the bottom of the screen.

• Protect your computer. Installing updates to your operating system can be done for free by enabling the option on your computer's security center. Keep all anti-virus software up to date and make sure all security patches and updates are installed for programs that access the Internet.

Robb Hicken: 947-2115

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service