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Beware Flight 370 scams

Posted by Rattana_S On April - 8 - 2014

“Video of Malaysia MH370 plane found in Bermuda Triangle. Passengers alive.” “Missing plane has been found!”

Headlines like these might seem tempting, but don’t fall for the hype. These videos and links are scams, according to the Better Business Bureau.

They’re popping up on social media sites like Facebook (FB, Fortune 500) and Twitter (TWTR) and are being passed around in emails. As people wait anxiously for answers to the Malaysian jet mystery, these links promise “exclusive” footage or “shocking” revelations.

When you click on the link, you may be prompted to “update your video player.” If you agree, you’re downloading malware that can allow an attacker to take over your computer.

Another variation prompts you to take a survey and divulge all your information, opening you up to identity theft. And many scams force you to share the video before watching, putting your contacts at risk as well.

This isn’t the first time hackers have used the news to their advantage. Christopher Budd, global threat communications manager at Trend Micro, says similar scams popped up after the marathon bombing in Boston. Cyberattackers have also taken advantage of celebrity deaths and other major news events.

Hackers target what Budd calls the “knowledge gap” — when users are looking for answers that news outlets don’t have. He says the strategy works so well that there is a criminal underground ready to crank out scams quickly when news breaks.

So how can you protect yourself? It’s important to get your news about the missing jet from trusted news sites instead of through emails and social media.

The Better Business Bureau recommends hovering over a link before clicking to see the destination. Avoid unfamiliar websites.

Also, don’t trust a link just because a friend shared it — that friend may be a victim of the scam, or the account may have been hacked. You should report suspicious activity on Facebook and Twitter.

A good rule of thumb: If it sounds too crazy to be true, it probably is.

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