Within 48 hours of the news surrounding the death of actor and comedian Robin Williams, scammers honed in on the public’s interest and grief. There is currently a scam campaign circulating on Facebook claiming to be a goodbye video recorded by the actor just before his death.
Figure 1. Fake BBC news site with fake Robin Williams goodbye video
There is no video. Users that click on the link to the supposed video are taken to a fake BBC News website. As with many social scams, users are required to perform actions before they can view the content. In this case, users are instructed to share the video on Facebook before watching.
Figure 2. Facebook share dialog with fake comments and shares
If a user clicks on the “Share on Facebook” button, they are prompted with a share dialog box. This box misleads users into believing this page has received millions of comments and shares but, actually, scammers have leveraged Facebook Open Graph metadata as a trick.
Figure 3. Scam site asks users to install fake Facebook media plugin
After sharing the link to their Facebook friends, users won’t be presented with a video. Instead, they’ll be asked to install an application on their computer or to fill out a survey. Scammers operating these sites use affiliate programs to earn money for the completion of surveys and file downloads.
We have alerted Facebook about this scam campaign and they are taking steps to block the offending URLs.
Real and fake celebrity deaths
Over the years, scammers have used both real and fake celebrity deaths as a way to convince users to click on links and perform actions. From Amy Winehouse and Paul Walker to the fake deaths of Miley Cyrus and Will Smith, scammers are opportunistic and always looking for ways to capitalize.
Words of caution
Before you click on a link a friend may have shared on social media, follow these best practices:
- Be vigilant and skeptical when reading sensational stories on social media sites.
- Don’t install applications or do surveys in order to view gated content. It's a trick to put money in the pockets of scammers and your computer or device is at risk to malware.
- Visit trusted news sources for information. Instead of clicking on random links online, go directly to your trusted news source.
- Report suspicious content. Do your part by reporting these types of posts as spam.