Celebrity death hoaxes on Facebook could be phishing scams

Published: Sep. 28, 2016 at 9:44 PM CDT
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Another fake news story was making the rounds on Facebook​ over the weekend.

This time, it wasn’t just incorrect information that users were spreading – it was a phishing scam.

The Facebook post, which falsely claimed that actor Brad Pitt​ is dead, began circulating shortly after the announcement of Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s divorce surfaced last week. Once users clicked on what appeared to be a Fox News report detailing the actor’s “death,” they were redirected to another page that requested their login information, giving hackers access to their profile.

Although several media reports warned users not to click on the story on Wednesday, Facebook communications manager Jay Nancarrow told CBS News that particular post should no longer exist.

The false article was not being posted directly to Facebook, rather it was being generated through an app. Teams at Facebook detect apps that violate the site’s policies and shut them down, ensuring they don’t continue to pose a risk to users.

That’s exactly what happened in this case.

“We are focused on showing you the stories that are most relevant to you in News Feed. We’re aware that recently a small set of apps posted fake news articles on our platform,” the Facebook spokesperson explained. “We have taken action against these apps and stories, and we encourage people who see these types of posts to report the content to us.”

But that doesn’t mean users don’t need to be cautious. Other hoaxes are likely to pop up.

According to Snopes.com​, the clickbait site responsible for generating the fake “breaking news” story has published several celebrity death hoaxes over the past few weeks, including Vin Diesel, Nicolas Cage, Jaden Smith, Jim Carrey, Sylvester Stallone and John Cena.

Facebook advises users do two things if they spot a fake story:

1.If you suspect a story is fake, whether you simply believe it is false or click through it and notice something seems off, report​ the actual post to Facebook so the company can learn more about it.

2.If you click on one of these posts and realize it’s not a real news story, exit the page. Be wary of pages that ask you for credentials, and never put in personal information on sites that pop up unexpectedly.

If you happen to click on a hoax story – like the one above – don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you’re at risk of getting hacked. Only users who enter their personal information are at risk.

The best advice in a nutshell: Avoid clickbait, and don’t share personal information just because some random site asks you for it.