It was only a matter of time before scammers pounced on the tragedy of the missing Malaysian Airlines plane to exploit for illegal purposes. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) just issued a scam alert yesterday about the numerous scams already out there (www.scamalert@council.bbb.org; “Fake Malaysian Airline News Used as Scam Click Bait”, April 1st).  The terrible bait is that the scams allegedly show exclusive footage of the missing plane and/or of passengers being found.

This scam, like other scams, could arrive via different methods and in multiple versions.  BBB has learned about the scam being sent on Facebook and reports it could also come on Twitter, through other social media as well as emails.

What will the scam look like?  BBB reports two of the most popular versions, so far, are the following:

  • A Facebook post, for example, reading”Video of Malaysia MH 370 Plane Found in Bermuda Triangle. Passengers Alive.” or,
  • A social media post or email reading “[NEWS FLASH] Missing Plane Has Been Found.”

What happens next? As the BBB “alert” warns, there is a link in the message directing people to click on it.  The link is allegedly a news site but anyone clicking on the link will go to an unfamiliar 3rd party website.  That link could do one of several of the following:

  • A pop up could appear directing people to “update your video player.”  Don’t hit “OK” — what’s getting “played” is anyone who does so.  It’s malware, not a new software version, that will be downloaded.
  • A message could appear directing people to take a survey before viewing the video.  Again, don’t do it!  Clicking on the survey link could mean people are sharing personal information that could make them vulnerable to identity theft.  An even stronger possibility is that doing so will send personal information to the scammers who will sell it to spammers or others.

How can you know if a message is a scam or legitimate?  The BBB alert suggests people hover their mouse over the link to see where it might lead.  Again, only hover, don’t click it.  The BBB alert also has links to the respective Facebook and Twitter instructions for reporting scams to them.

People are hoping for some concrete news about this missing plane.  Scammers are counting on it so we have to guard against our natural instincts to learn more and be careful before opening any seemingly legitimate news flashes.