Scammers exploit Steve Jobs' death on Facebook

Ane Howard · October 7, 2011 · Short URL:

Computer anti-virus firm reveals the ugly, opportunistic, and insensitive side of online marketers










'R.I.P. Steve Jobs'.  

It looked innocent enough. But hiding in plain sight was the latest online scam, preying on innocent people's mourning for and curiosity about the death of Steve Jobs.

It further read, 'In memory of Steve, a company is giving away 50 iPads tonight." But this post had little to do with showing respect to the late Steve Jobs, who passed on October 5, but everything to do with a darker, ugly, and insensitive side of online marketing. 

The post appeared two short hours after the announcement of the death of Steve Jobs, and was detected by Sophos, a global computer anti-virus firm based in Boston, Massachusetts and Oxford, UK. 

It was cleverly accompanied by a shortened link from that read "restinpeace-steve-jobs." Users who fell victim to it, and clicked on the link, were automatically redirected to a page and requested to enter personal information and to fill in a survey, or directed to online gaming sites.  

But it could have been worse. It could have been a phishing site, where visitors are asked to enter personal information and credentials are stolen. 

Sophos flagged the fraudulent URL as "potentially problematic" around 8 a.m. EDT on Oct. 6, and made aware of the fraudsters. immediately took down the link, but already more than 25,669 people from 100 countries had been tricked, as shown on’s analytics page.

Sophos confirmed to me that 43% of the victims were from the United States, and that even though, it mainly targeted Facebook users,  the survey scam also appeared to be spreading through e-mail and instant messaging as users spread the link, by using  the "share" capability on Facebook, with friends.


The scammers, who Sophos refused to name, are working for an unscrupulous online marketing firm.

Cynically, these computer fraudsters frequently exploit the deaths of celebrities, or other tragedies to attract Web surfers, by linking news to offers for free products, then delivering those links in contaminated Facebook messages, Tweets or e-mails.

Edify yourself on tricks of the trade

But with a little education, there is hope of detecting fraudulent links, before falling victim to them. Facebook scams typically follow established patterns, therefore can be detected by a suspecting eye.

Beware of gossipy news. Stay away from anything that prompts you to read about the latest celebrity scandals, such as “Watch Ashton Kutcher  dining with his mistress," or "Brad Pitt seen kissing Jennifer Aniston."

"Log In Again," is another one of those tricky call for action. This is a prickly one and originates from many sources, such as Facebook, e-mails, websites, and blogs. Users are asked to reconnect to Facebook to a fake, but perfectly reproduced Facebook login page, and once users have done so, private information is stolen.

Also beware of text that says "Breaking News." Computer fraudsters are famous for reporting a big disaster, a death of someone famous or sick children. And, if you're lured by your curiosity, such as those who followed the R.I.P. Steve Jobs link, you will most likely be redirected to a phishing site. 

Sadly enough, these practices aren’t about to disappear from the Web. That's because it pays off and these scam artists get away with it. The scammers profit when users click through those links, by earning commissions based on the amount of traffic they bring to the websites.

This is probably just the beginning of scams using Jobs’ death. The next scam could well be a call to donate in Steve Jobs’ name.  

If you want to pay tribute to  Steve Jobs, the safest place to do it is on the Memorial Page created by Apple inc., in his honor.


Image: Sophos

Main page image: source


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Ane Howard

I am a social journalist covering technology innovations and the founder of, an international newswire.

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