It is a sad fact of life that online scammers are always quick to use events such as terrorist attacks or natural disasters to further their own nefarious ends. And the attack on Paris will likely be no exception. Although I have not yet seen any scams specifically related to the attack, past experience tells me that it is only a matter of time before they start appearing.
Forewarned is forearmed, as they say. So, in the coming days and weeks, be alert for scam messages that attempt to exploit news of the attack.
Criminals may distribute emails, text messages, or social media posts claiming to contain ‘breaking news’ or previously undisclosed information about the attack. The messages may appear to come from a legitimate news outlet and even include the news outlet’s logo and other elements that make it appear genuine at first glance. They may ask you to access the ‘news’ by clicking a link or opening an attached file. However, the linked websites or attached files will contain malware that can infect your computer. Rather than clicking links or opening attachments in such messages, it is safer to visit the website of the news outlet directly or perform a search via a news portal such as Google News. Any new or important information about the attack should be easily found by visiting or searching on mainstream news outlets.
In other variations, links in the posts may try to get you to disclose personal information via survey scam websites. If a message claims that, before being allowed to access the promised news story, you must first like and share the post and then participate in an online survey, do not proceed.
Scammers may also send out messages asking you to donate money to aid victims of the attack. The messages may look like they belong to legitimate charitable organisations such as the Red Cross. However, if you click the links in such messages you will be taken to a fake website designed to steal your credit card details and other personal information.
I sincerely hope that I’m wrong and that even the most callous scammer would not stoop so low as to attempt to capitalise on this dreadful event. But, given past experience, I suspect that my small hope will be in vain.
Last updated: November 14, 2015
First published: November 14, 2015
By Brett M. Christensen