Not long after we learned about the killing of Osama Bin Laden on Sunday, May 1, scammers were hard at work trying to profit from the news.
Within hours, websites were built claiming to show "leaked", uncensored pictures and videos of the firefight that killed the world's most notorious terrorist. Within days, links had spread to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Today, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) received an email from an "insider" wanting our help in smuggling Bin Laden's fortunes out of the country. However, they're all scams. We knew it was only a matter of time.
According to Kaspersky Labs, an Internet security firm, malicious Web sites and links have been proliferating on Google Images search, Facebook, and other social media sites.
On Facebook, a fake video purporting to show the death of Bin Laden prompts users to input a malicious URL into their browsers, which will infect their computer with a virus. Kaspersky also reports that other Facebook scams lure victims to malicious Facebook Pages with promises of free airplane tickets, and other “free” offers to “celebrate Osama’s death.”
Consumers should also be very wary of links to Bin Laden-related Web sites that they find on Twitter, or any link with a URL that leads to an unfamiliar webpage. Often these links will lead consumers to Web sites with viruses, or forms that encourage consumers to enter personal information, which can be used to steal their identity, or for phishing scams.
In addition, consumers should beware of phishing emails that claim to be from “insiders”, such as Pakistani citizens or U.S. military troops, that request their help in smuggling Bin Laden’s fortunes out of the country. These emails are simply an updated version of the old “Nigerian prince” scam letters.
The Wisconsin BBB also is aware of emails to consumers that appear to be from the “FBI”. The emails appear to be a threat that the “FBI” has negative information about the reader, specifically that they’ve visited “illegal websites” or that they need to pay for a “security clearance”. While not specifically mentioning recent news events, the scammers appear to be capitalizing on the heightened awareness of FBI and CIA activities.
- Be mindful about clicking on links that purport to show information that’s not widely available from respected news sources. In the case of Bin Laden, no photos or videos related to his death have been released. Be extremely skeptical of links that say otherwise.
- Be wary of free offers “celebrating” any sort of occasion, especially if the offer comes from a company or Web site you haven’t heard of before. Often times all it takes for a scammer to infect your computer with a virus is clicking on one bad link.
- If you you’re unsure if an offer or a Web site is legitimate, contact BBB at 414-847-6000 (metro Milwaukee), 920-734-4352 (NE Wisconsin) or 800-273-1002 (elsewhere in Wisconsin).
- Do not respond to any emails or letters that ask for your assistance in smuggling money out of a foreign country.
For more information on how consumers can protect themselves against scams, go to www.wisconsin.bbb.org or like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WisconsinBBB or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/WisconsinBBB.