PhotoYesterday, an Air Asia Indonesia flight en route to Singapore vanished somewhere over the Java Sea. Scammers on Facebook almost immediately used headlines about the missing flight as bait to ensnare Facebooks users into a potentially costly phone-billing scam — and possibly into infecting their devices with malware, too.

AirAsia Indonesia Flight QZ8501 went missing on Dec. 28, and as of press time on Dec. 29 neither the flight nor any wreckage from it has been found (although the BBC reports that searchers have seen oil slicks on the water, possibly left by a downed plane).

If and when the plane or its remains are found, pretty much every major news outlet will report this, same way every major news outlet has reported Flight QZ8501's disappearance. Therefore, you should avoid any Facebook post claiming to have “exclusive” information or video footage about the flight or its wreckage.

Hoax-Slayer posted a warning on Dec. 29 about scammy, malware-ridden Facebook posts falsely claiming to be from CNN, claiming that the plane was found in Tacloban, Philippines, and then invites you to click “Play” to watch video of “breaking news” footage.

Text message "service"

If you actually click the play button, what happens then? Hoax-Slayer says:

... a popup on the page will claim that you must like and share the video on Facebook before you can view the footage. But, after you like and share as instructed, another popup will claim that you must complete a survey to see the full video …. The survey links open dodgy third-party websites that ask for your mobile phone number and other personal details, ostensibly to allow you to go in the draw for various prizes.

But, alas, by providing your mobile number, you are actually signing up for an ongoing and very expensive SMS service that will charge you several dollars for every text message they send. …

At some point in the process, you'll also be offered the chance to download a "video player" riddled with malware. Remember, where any Facebook post is concerned, never to trust any post – even if it appears to be from a legitimate news network – claiming to offer “exclusive” footage nobody else has. (And if CNN — or any other news source — actually does have exclusive footage of some newsworthy event, you'll be able to find it on the actual CNN website, and still don't need to click on any Facebook posts.)

Also remember to never gve your phone number to a site demanding it as part of its registration process. And finally, remember that any breaking news story will attract scammers who try using it as bait. The more curiosity you feel about a given story, the more you have to be on guard.

Share your Comments