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SCAMwatch homeNews centreSCAMwatch radarBeware of scammers taking advantage of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 tragedy

Beware of scammers taking advantage of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 tragedy

July 2014: SCAMwatch is warning Australians to be wary of scammers looking to take advantage of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 tragedy by setting up fake Facebook pages in the name of victims of the tragedy.

Scammers have set up false Facebook profiles for Australian victims of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 tragedy in an attempt to make money from people interested in finding out more about this international tragedy. The profiles direct people to a blog, where they are then bombarded with dubious advertisements.

If you click on the advertisement, the scammer can make money from the advertising ‘service’ (where they receive advertising revenue for each click through to a client’s website or product). The blog or advertisement may also be infected with malware, thereby compromising your computer’s security. 

Beware – scammers have also been known to take advantage of major news stories including tragedies to seek donations for fake charities. Scammers use social networking platforms to promote these schemes.

If you want to find out more online about the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, only use official news sources. Be wary of unverified links posted on social networking sites– unfortunately scammers like to connect with people through these forums too. 

How this scam works

Scam advertising services

  • Scammers set up a false Facebook page using the name of a victim of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 tragedy. The Facebook page directs you to a blog that it purports has information on the Flight MH17 tragedy.
  • If you click on the link to the blog, you will be subject to a series of pop-up advertisements.
  • If you click on the advertisement, the scammer will then make money from the ‘click-through’ by driving potential customers to a business’s website.

Malware scam

  • Alternatively, the site that you are directed to may contain infected ads, which if you click on could cause malware to install on your computer. The scammers may have also set up malware to be downloaded when you click on the link to the blog.
  • If a scammer has infected your computer with malware, they may be able to access your personal information stored on the computer, including financial details. They may then be able to use this access to commit identity theft or steal your money.

Charity scam

  • You should also be on the lookout for charity scams that may arise out of the flight MH17 tragedy, with scammers often using major news stories as a means to lure donations that they claim will go to helping victims.
  • You may receive an email, come across a website, or find a blog or profile on a social media site claiming to raise money for a charity, or affected families.
  • If you hand over money to the ‘charity’ or ‘fundraiser’, your money will go straight into the pockets of a scammer and the victims will never receive a cent.

Protect yourself

  • If you want to access information about major or breaking news sources, use a reliable news source rather than an unknown web link or blog – there are many reputable online news sites where you can safely access credible information.
  • Always keep your computer security up-to-date with anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a good firewall. Only buy computer and anti-virus software from a reputable source.
  • If you think your computer’s security has been compromised, use your security software to run a virus check. If you still have doubts, contact your anti-virus software provider or a computer specialist.
  • If you are considering making a donation to a charity, cause or appeal, approach the organisation directly using their official contact details to make the payment.
  • Never give money or your financial details to someone you don’t know - it’s rare to recover money from a scammer.
  • If you think that your banking or financial details have been compromised, contact your financial institution immediately.

Report

If you come across a Facebook account that you think is suspicious, you should report it to Facebook – see Facebook’s ‘How do I report a fake account?’ page for instructions. 

You can report scams to the ACCC via the SCAMwatch report a scam page or by calling 1300 795 995.

More information

SCAMwatch has recently issued alerts on scammers targeting the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 tragedy and the 2013 Boston marathon bomb tragedy.

For more information on donating safely to Australian charities, visit the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission website.

Stay one step ahead of scammers – follow @SCAMwatch_gov on Twitter or visit http://twitter.com/SCAMwatch_gov.

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© Commonwealth of Australia 2014