This story was first published on January 21, 2014.
A “breaking news” message that features an image depicting a passenger jet crashed into a traffic bridge includes a link that supposedly opens a video with more on the disaster.
The message is a scam. There is no video. Those who click the link will be tricked into divulging their personal information via dodgy online surveys and spamming their friends with the same scam message. The image does not depict a real plane crash. It is an artwork created by digital artist Steve McGhee. The image was apparently taken from the artist’s website by the scammers and reused in the scam campaign.
A message that features a rather eye-catching image depicting a passenger plane crashed into a busy traffic bridge is currently being distributed across Facebook. The message touts itself as “breaking news”. It includes the clickable headline “Huge Plane Crashes into Bridge”. The picture includes a “play” button, implying that people can click to see more footage of the disaster.
However, the message is just one more video survey scam among a multitude of similar scams that have targeted Facebook users in recent months. The image does not depict a real plane crash.
The image is an art piece created by digital artist Steve McGhee. The artist has a whole gallery of “disaster” art pieces on his website. The plane crash image was apparently stolen from the artist’s website for use in the scam campaign. It appears that the scammers have seen fit to embellish the image by adding a person supposedly falling from the stricken aircraft.
Those who click the link in the hope of seeing video footage of the plane crash will first be taken to a fake Facebook page that appears to host the promised video.
But, when they click the play button on the video, users will receive a “restricted” message stating that they must first share a link to the material via Facebook before they can access the footage.
If users share as instructed – thereby effectively spamming the scam message to all of their friends – they will be taken to a second fake web page that again appears to host the video.
But, if they again click the “play” button, they will be told via a popup window that they must complete a “verification” procedure by clicking a link and participating in an online survey.
Users will then be swept into a quagmire of suspect online surveys that promise expensive prizes for those willing to participate. Many of the surveys require users to provide their mobile phone number as a condition of entry. But, by giving out their number, users are actually signing up for very expensive sms “subscriptions”. Other surveys may ask victims to provide personal and contact information that will later be shared with third parties and used to bombard them with unwanted and annoying junk mail, emails, phone calls and text messages.
The scammers who set up these fake video pages will earn commissions via dubious affiliate marketing systems each and every time a person participates in a survey or provides their personal information in an online “offer”.
But, alas, no matter how many surveys or offers users complete, they will never get to see the promised video.
This is just one in an ongoing series of similar video survey scams that have been hitting Facebook in recent years. Be cautious of any Facebook post that claims that users can access “shocking”, “exclusive” or “breaking news” video by clicking a link. If such a message comes your way on Facebook, do not click any links that it contains.