In the wake of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 disaster, there were initial reports that looting at the rebel-controlled scene would result in further suffering for the families of the accident’s victims.
On Friday, senior Ukraine official Anton Gerashchenko warned of MH17 scavenging and scamming in a Facebook post, saying to followers:
“Just now I have received information that terrorists – death-hunters were collecting not only cash money and jewelry of the crashed [Boeing] died passengers but also the credit cards of the victims… Currently they might as well try to use them in Ukraine or pass them on to Russia… My humble request to the relatives of the victims to freeze their credit cards, so that they won’t loose their assets to terrorists!”
As the scene in Ukraine descended into chaos and recovery efforts remained impeded, another level of disrespect to the victims and families affected by the Malaysia Airlines tragedy was reported — involving Facebook scams using the identities of the dead.
At least three child victims were used in such a manner before Facebook shut down pages that farmed for clicks, likes, and traffic to scam sites.
One adult victim, Liliane Derden, may have been the subject of a Facebook scam, and friend Carly Taylor says the family was forced to delete Derden’s actual Facebook page for fears it might be used by scammers.
“We’re a little bit worried we don’t know who’s out there doing it and we’d prefer that they know the truth and people aren’t giving to charities or whatever the people are proposing to be.”
Director of the University of Canberra Centre for Internet Safety, Alastair MacGibbon, commented on the rising trend of immediate use of a tragedy by internet scammers.
MacGibbon called scams like the MH17 click farming “extremely lucrative” and possibly dangerous for unwitting Facebook users, explaining:
“Crooks are super-fast these days at picking up on anything that’s remotely topical, and working out how to monetise it from a criminal point of view… It’s a really distasteful trend.”
“There’s a lot of money in click fraud… You’re really dealing with a base type of person who uses the name of a person recently deceased in a tragedy to monetise.”
To add insult to injury, many of the pages set up as “memorials” to MH17 victims hosted clickbait content, such as a link that promised to show a clip titled “Video Camera Caught the moment plane MH17 Crash over Ukraine…Watch here the video of Crash.”