Facebook Scam Exploits Robin Williams' Death for Clicks

Credit: ESET

(Image credit: ESET)

Have you seen Facebook posts claiming to link to a video message that actor Robin Williams made before his death earlier this week? Do not click on it — the video does not exist. The post was created by scammers looking to make a quick buck off the tragic death of a beloved entertainer.

And just because your friends have shared the link on Facebook doesn't mean it's legitimate. If you click on it, you'll be brought to a Web page that demands you share the link on your own Facebook page and fill out a survey before you can view the alleged video.

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Filling out this survey generates revenue for the scammers, and in the end, you won't see any kind of video for your trouble. The morbidity of listening to a depressed man's private last words aside, there is no evidence that such a video exists at all.

Nevertheless, it appears the video has already been shared more than 24 million times on Facebook at the time of this publishing.

The fake Robin Williams video is just another example of "social engineering," the technical term for manipulating people into getting them to click malicious links. Spam like this always accompanies major news items, playing with people's fear, interest and morbid curiosity to generate quick cash. 

"The scammers have no qualms about exploiting the death of a famous actor and comedian to earn their cash, and give no thought whatsoever to the distressed family he must have left behind," wrote security expert and blogger Graham Cluley, who identified the scam on the We Live Security blog by security company ESET.

Always be skeptical of things you see on Facebook, regardless of whether your friends shared them. Don't click on a URL with a strange domain name. And don't share a Facebook link without knowing what it is first.

Jill Scharr is a staff writer for Tom's Guide, where she regularly covers security, 3D printing and video games. You can follow Jill on Twitter @JillScharr and on Google+. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.

Jill Scharr is a creative writer and narrative designer in the videogame industry. She's currently Project Lead Writer at the games studio Harebrained Schemes, and has also worked at Bungie. Prior to that she worked as a Staff Writer for Tom's Guide, covering video games, online security, 3D printing and tech innovation among many subjects.