Steve Jobs death exploited by Facebook scammers

Filed Under: Apple, Facebook, iOS, Social networks, Spam

It's impossible to express how sad many people in the technology world feel at the news of the death of Steve Jobs.

Sickeningly, as with the deaths of other figures in the public eye, there are scammers waiting to take advantage of bad news.

Here's a scam we have seen on Facebook, claiming that free iPads are being given away "in memory of Steve Jobs".

In memory of Steve, a company is giving out 50 ipads tonight. R.I.P. Steve Jobs [LINK]

The cool-sounding link sucks you in, tricking you into believing that you may get a free iPad but then goes on to get you to complete online surveys to "qualify".

The link goes through the bit.ly short url service (we have asked our friends at bit.ly to shut the link down) and we can see that over 15,000 people have already clicked on the link which was set up within hours of Steve Jobs's death first being announced.

Of course, if you were one of those people who clicked on the link you may be wondering what the chances are that you will receive a free iPad. I hate to disappoint you, but it's pretty unlikely.

The webpage you are taken to is very similar to ones we have seen pointed to by other scammers. Here's what I saw:

I am writing this article from the Virus Bulletin conference in Barcelona, and you can see that the page has automagically determined where I am in the world and adjusted its language and wording as appropriate.

Below you'll see how the survey pages look if you visit them from Sydney, Australia, for instance.

Survey site visited from Australia

If you don't click through within a few seconds, it plays an audio message urging you to do so:

You'll notice that the audio message spectacularly fails to mention the 50 free iPads, which have by this time been reduced to the promise of "an exclusive reward", whatever that might be.

My colleague Paul Ducklin captured the audio and - being a fountain of interesting but not always entirely relevant information - tells me that the speaker is an Australian who grew up in South Africa.

When Duck visited the page a second time from Sydney, this is what he saw:

Casino website

How do the scammers make money? Well, they are earning affiliate cash - in a nutshell, they make more money the more traffic they can direct to websites, driving more people to become customers, or take online surveys and competitions.

Cynically, they exploited the death of Steve Jobs in the hope of driving large numbers of internet users to websites offering content such as contests, surveys and online gambling. The fact is, of course, that they could just as easily have taken those users to a webpage containing malicious code or a phishing page designed to steal credentials.

Chances are that this won't be the only scam we see regarding the untimely death of Steve Jobs. It wouldn't be a surprise, for instance, to see scams which might try to take advantage of those moved by the loss of Apple's founder with lures like "Donate to Steve's favourite charities as a tribute".

If you do want to pay tribute to Steve Jobs, the most appropriate place it seems to me would be Apple's website itself.

The truth is that the scammers are not geniuses like Jobs, and they don't contribute anything to the world of technology or wider society as Steve Jobs did. It's a shame that they can't be inspired by speeches like the one Jobs gave at Stanford University in 2005, and make something better of their lives.

I think that's how we should remember Steve Jobs today.

Please folks - always think carefully about the links that you click on. Time and time again scammers and cybercriminals have proven themselves to have no qualms about exploiting news stories - whether it be the personal tragedy of a teenage girl committing suicide, bizarre escapades, a natural disaster or the latest salacious celebrity gossip.

Make sure that you keep informed about the latest scams spreading fast across Facebook and other internet attacks. Join the Sophos page on Facebook, where over 140,000 people regularly share information on threats and discuss the latest security news.

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12 Responses to Steve Jobs death exploited by Facebook scammers

  1. Edusco · 1076 days ago

    The Facbook seems to have became a stage to scammers...

  2. Robert Gracie · 1076 days ago

    How can these scammers get away with this, he was a legend in the computing world its shameful to see some people are exploting his death for gain its shameful!

  3. lewis · 1076 days ago

    more and more i see scams like this and the ppl doing thsi must be earning $$$£££

    report links and mark as spam think thats all regular users can do :/

  4. antivir2010 · 1076 days ago

    wow, they are heartless...

  5. Promised Blessing · 1076 days ago

    This is truly sad at the passing of such an icon or even the death of an individual callous persons can seek to exploit anything to make a dollar.

    The world has truly lost a hero a man far advanced in his years with technology, communication and music and even film making.

  6. Adam Weeden · 1076 days ago

    I have tried to contact one webhost provider which is hosting one of these bad sites, but they told me that they can't do anything about it!

    "I agree and wish we could do more to stop little scams like that, however, we are pretty much powerless especially since this is such a gray area. If, for instance, it was overtly fraud such as teaching people how to scam other companies or they showed you how to commit financial fraud against whom and where, then it would be an easy case for us.

    Unfortunately, as a Hosting Provider, we can't even really take action against false advertising, as most web content falls under the free speech clause of the United States Constitution, and in order to remove it, we would have to be issued a court order first. (To do so otherwise would open us up to severe penalties and civil lawsuits for violating constitutional rights, and we would likely lose customers over the publicity, as well).

    We do appreciate the report, however, and encourage you to continue making reports if you find other content that we may be able to take action on.
    "

    Internet Law Has Failed.

  7. darylrosser · 1076 days ago

    Guys, you got it all wrong, the person promoting this has nothing to do with the audio file, they're just an advertiser that are dealing with the affiliate network w4.com, they have nothing to do with the Facebook spam and will most likely dispute all the traffic that user sent to them.

    The user under the name "bsergott" according to bit.ly is the one that's been spamming using W4 affiliate links. https://bitly.com/u/bsergott. These are most likely simple Email submit offers, so they're being paid per email submitted.
    We've already spoken to the W4 team and they said they'll deal with it.

    The page you were taken to when clicking the link was down to your geo-location, what you'll most likely find is that the free ipad offer the spammer was promoting is only available to US, so if you visit from another location you'll be automatically redirected to another offer.

    Overall that user got 25,000 clicks to their affiliate link, with something as simple as a 0.10 EPC (earnings per click average) which isn't very high, the user would have made $2,500.00, but I expect they made more than that.
    Just a quick insight as to how much this user could have made.

    Also the page promoting the spam was taken down hours ago by Facebook, but I highly doubt that's the end of it.

    I have a huge amount of respect for Steve Jobs and these spammers just take "opportunist" out of context.

  8. JOHN · 1075 days ago

    This is really shameful that such a great personality died and people talking like this.

  9. HeidiL · 1075 days ago

    I saw this link on Facebook today: ‎3-ipad-4u.com Safe to assume it's as false as the link in the article?

  10. Paul E · 1074 days ago

    That's just sick. I've had spam emails today that are similar - with subject lines like "Family Announces Steve Jobs is Still Alive" etc... Twisted. :(

  11. Paul · 1074 days ago

    I cannot believe just how stupid people are!!!

    Have they never heard of "There is no such thing as a free lunch", or, " If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is"?

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About the author

Graham Cluley runs his own award-winning computer security blog, and is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Send Graham an email, subscribe to his updates on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and App.net, and circle him on Google Plus for regular updates.