Online Scams Proliferate in the Wake of Osama Bin Laden's Death
Once again, scammers are quick to follow the headlines. In the aftermath of the death of Osama Bin Laden this past weekend, the Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to watch out for a slew of cyber-scams that have popped up in the past few days.
Consumers should beware of phishing emails that claim to be from “insiders” - such as Pakistani citizens or US military troops - that request help in smuggling Bin Laden’s fortune out of the country. These emails are simply an updated version of the old “Nigerian prince” scam letters. One such email forwarded to the BBB by a consumer in Alabama states:
“First, let me introduce myself. I am General Lloyd James Austin III am assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force, Western Anbar Province in Iraq. But i and some troops were assigned to Pakistan on a raid of Osama Bin Laden hide out. We succeeded on the mission and he is dead at the moment and buried in the sea. Right now, i have a situation at hand, i am desperately in need of assistance and i have summoned up courage to contact you.”
The email has all the earmarks of a typical Nigerian letter scam, according to Randy Hutchinson, BBB president. “The misspellings and grammatical errors that we typically see in these types of letters are present in this email,” Hutchinson said. “Supposedly, this Marine was involved in the raid on Bin Laden’s hideout and has come across large sums of money he’s willing to share with you if you’ll just give him your bank account information so he can transfer the funds out of Pakistan.”
It’s the same old scam with a new twist – the mention of Bin Laden’s death and burial at sea are an attempt to make the old scam seem current and legitimate.
According to Kaspersky Labs, an Internet security firm, malicious Web sites and links related to Bin Laden 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.”
Examples of some malicious posts:
Consumers should also be very wary of links to Osama-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 as phishing scams to steal their identity.
- Be mindful about clicking on links that purport to show information that’s not widely available from respected news sources. This includes links on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. In the case of Bin Laden, no official photos or videos related to his death have been released. Be extremely skeptical of links that say otherwise.
- Be wary of clicking on links in search results unless the website is a trusted source.
- 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.
- Do not respond to any emails or letters that ask for your assistance in smuggling money out of a foreign country.
- If you you’re unsure if an offer or a Web site is legitimate, contact BBB at 901-759-1300 or 800-222-8754.
For more information on how to protect yourself against scams or to find reputable businesses you can trust, visit bbb.org.