As the rest of the world mourns the loss of Whitney Houston, online crooks have wasted no time capitalizing on her tragic death in hopes of making a quick buck.
Shortly after news of Houston's death hit the Web on Saturday, Twitter and Facebook became inundated with people reacting to the event. As a result "RIP Whitney Houston" quickly became a trending topic on Twitter, creating a perfect environment — millions of interested social networkers hungry for any information — for cybercriminals to strike.
The security firm TrendMicro found one such Twitter scam disguising itself under the supposedly homage-paying trending topic. Clicking on the link in the rigged Twitter post takes people to a blog dedicated to Houston's career, but the blog automatically redirects them to a Web page offering different Whitney Houston wallpapers.
Downloading a wallpaper triggers yet another offer to download Whitney Houston ringtones, and, no matter what you do, the sneaky Web page eventually takes you to a survey site that asks for your cellphone number.
Of course, no scam would reach even a fraction of its true potential unless it spread like wildfire through Facebook, and this one certainly has. Trend Micro spotted a wall post with the subject, "I cried watching this video. RIP Whitney Houston," followed by, of course, a link to what promises to be a YouTube video.
"However, clicking this link only leads to several redirections until users are lead to the usual survey site," Trend Micro's Christopher Talampas wrote in a company blog.
Trend Micro found 101 such survey scams registered on the same IP address where the original fake video was hosted.
It's par for the cybercriminal course that, within hours of a tragic event, scammers emerge from the woodwork to prey on the public's fascination and desire to know the "true" story of what happened. Similar scams popped up following the deaths of Amy Winehouse, Osama bin Laden and Moammar Gadhafi, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and countless other huge world happenings that drew people in droves to the Web.
To protect yourself from Whitney Houston hoaxes and other ones that are sure to come in the future, never download anything that looks suspicious, even if it comes from a friend on Facebook or Twitter. And make sure your anti-virus software is updated; besides basic common sense, it will be your strongest line of defense in combating rigged websites and dangerous software.