Hackers are exploiting Queen Elizabeth II's death — watch out for these scams

Queen Elizabeth II
(Image credit: Yui Mok - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

The recent passing of Queen Elizabeth II has left a nation and the world in mourning, but that hasn’t stopped hackers from capitalizing on the news.

In a recent post on its site, the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has warned that there may be an increase in phishing emails and online scams following the death of the Queen. This is to be expected as hackers and other cybercriminals often leverage major events or news in their attacks and scams.

As such, the NCSC is warning people in the UK and around the world to be attentive and vigilant when it comes to “emails, text messages and other communications concerning the death of Her Majesty the Queen and arrangements for her funeral”.

With Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral scheduled to be held on Monday, September 19th, a few online scams and a phishing campaign targeting Microsoft account credentials have already been identified. However, there will likely be more attacks capitalizing on the Queen’s passing in the coming days.

These are the current scams and threats to be on the lookout for along with several tips on how you can stay safe during this time of mourning.

Stealing Microsoft account credentials

Fish hook on a keyboard

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Just four days after the Queen’s passing, the cybersecurity firm Bitdefender picked up a wave of fraudulent emails using its telemetry.

In a blog post, the company explained that these phishing emails aim to steal users’ Microsoft account credentials under the guise of creating an “AI memory board” in her honor. The subject lines of these emails vary but here are some of the ones identified by Bitdefender so far:

  • Be part of our AI hub in honor of Queen Elizabeth II
  • Be part of our AI hub in honour of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
  • Be part of our AI hub in memory of Queen Elizabeth II
  • Be part of our AI space in honor of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
  • Be part of our AI technologies space in memory of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
  • Join our AI hub in honor of Queen Elizabeth II
  • Join our artificial intelligence technology space in memory of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Users that received these emails were prompted to click on a button which read “In memory of Her Majesty” that instead of helping to create an AI memory board, actually took them to a fake Microsoft landing page designed to harvest their credentials.

This particular phishing campaign primarily targeted users in the U.S., the UK, Ireland, Germany, Sweden and South Korea. Fortunately though, it was short-lived with traffic to the fraudulent sites used in the campaign disappearing within two days of detection.

Still though, similar phishing campaigns could follow suit which is why you should be cautious when opening any emails related to the Queen. Also, you should avoid clicking on any links or downloading any attachments they contain.

Best cryptocurrency listed — Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Dogecoin, Binance

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Despite its potential usefulness, cryptocurrency and fraud often go hand in hand. To try and capitalize on the Queen’s passing, several scam tokens including Queen Elizabeth Inu, God Save the Queen, Queen, QueenDoge, London Bridge is Down and Rip Queen Elizabeth have already been launched according to Kim Komando.

If you’re thinking one of these new cryptocurrencies may be the next Dogecoin, you’re sadly mistaken as they’ll likely disappear soon and you’ll lose any money you’ve spent on them.

At the same time, the cybersecurity firm Kaspersky has discovered several investment projects offering crypto tokens and NFTs named after Queen Elizabeth II designed to "pay tribute to Her Majesty". They also offer commemorative coins or T-shirts. However, most of these sites are quite new and their payment pages aren't secured in any way. This means that if you do input your payment information, it could be stolen by intruders if the site's database is compromised. As such, Kaspersky recommends that users only buy  memorabilia from trusted stores while completely avoiding any Queen-related crypto tokens or NFTs. 

While people from across the UK and around the world are traveling to London to pay their respects or even possibly to attend Queen Elizabeth II's funeral, scammers are using this to their advantage. According to The Sun, at least three phony Twitter accounts have been spotted posing as Buckingham Palace offering people tickets to the Queen’s funeral. However, clicking on any of the links in their posts takes users to a phishing page that asks for the logins for their banking accounts.

How to stay safe from online scams exploiting the Queen’s death

Cybercriminals often play on people’s emotions in an attempt to get them to click on phishing links or willingly give up their credentials. The Queen’s passing has been a shock to many which is why there will likely be even more online scams on the horizon.

To protect yourself from phishing attempts and even having your devices infected with malware, you should be extra careful when it comes to the links you click on and the emails you open. Look out for spelling and grammar mistakes in emails but it’s also a good idea to do the same with any links sent to you or that you see on social media. Microsoft has a guide on how to protect against phishing attacks that is worth a read as well.

Installing one of the best antivirus software programs on your devices can certainly help but sticking to trusted news sources can help you avoid falling victim to potential scams as well. It also might be worth it to put down your smartphone and take a break from the internet so that you can focus on remembering Queen Elizabeth II and her extraordinary life. 

Anthony Spadafora
Senior Editor Security and Networking

Anthony Spadafora is the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to password managers and the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. Before joining the team, he wrote for ITProPortal while living in Korea and later for TechRadar Pro after moving back to the US. Based in Houston, Texas, when he’s not writing Anthony can be found tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.