What the Heck is a “Clickbait Scam?”

As everyone who has attended one of my talks has heard me say several times, the scammers are always evolving in their tactics and finding new ways to rip off the uninformed or unwary. The latest twist is what’s called a “clickbait scam,” in which the scammers send an email, post to Facebook, or place an ad on a website with a shocking or tantalizing message intended to lure in the curious with emotional “bait” and set them up for identity theft.


As I write this, the scammers are using headlines like “Robin Williams’ Last Goodbye Video,” “Shocking ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Goes Wrong and Kills Little Girl,” and other videos related to the African Ebola outbreak. If an elder you care about clicks on the link to the video, they will get an official-looking message that they “need to update their video player.” If they click on the link they may be directed to a page which asks for their personal information or that will download malware to their computer that searches out their personal information such as names, addresses, user names, passwords, etc. Either of these can lead to identity theft and other problems.


So what do you do to prevent this scam? Never click on a link to a video you receive in an email, on Facebook or other social media (this has been reported on Twitter, too), or in an ad on a website. If you’re not sure, hover your mouse or pointer over the link and see what address you’ll really be sent to if you click it. Scam addresses often have a bunch of random letters and numbers in a kind of “computer gibberish,” while legitimate addresses will look more “normal,” i.e. as we have come to expect. (www.alsa.org, for example, is the real web address for the ALS Association.)  


Many seniors are fairly tech-savvy, but they may not have heard about this sneaky scam. Pass the word to them and help them avoid becoming just another “hooked victim” of the click bait scam.

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