Be­ware of click­bait fol­low­ing Kobe Bryant’s death

Antelope Valley Press - - BUSINESS - Michelle Sin­gle­tary SIN­GLE­[email protected]­POST.COM

WASHINGTON — The sud­den death of Kobe Bryant has many fans rush­ing to buy cloth­ing and me­mora­bilia that com­mem­o­rates the life of the five-time NBA cham­pion.

A few hours af­ter the news broke Sun­day about Bryant’s death in a he­li­copter crash in Cal­i­for­nia, I was sit­ting in church wait­ing for ser­vice to start when a fel­low parish­ioner asked if I thought it was OK to or­der from a cer­tain on­line site. He wanted to pur­chase a me­mo­rial T-shirt.

The black shirts were go­ing fast, and he needed to act quickly be­fore they sold out, ac­cord­ing to a pres­sur­ing mes­sage on the site.

Like Mar­vel’s Peter Parker, my “spi­der sense” in­di­cated im­pend­ing dan­ger.

I asked the church mem­ber if he had ever shopped at the site be­fore. He hadn’t. He had just been search­ing on the In­ter­net for some­thing to re­mem­ber the bas­ket­ball player by and saw a shirt he liked.

But I cau­tioned him that the site might be a fake, in which case he would never re­ceive the shirt. Or maybe it was set up by a scam­mer as a way to cap­ture his credit card in­for­ma­tion so the data could be used to make fraud­u­lent pur­chases.

I strongly sug­gested that he stick with a trust­wor­thy on­line re­tailer. The man’s wife, who had been lis­ten­ing to our con­ver­sa­tion, smiled.

“Thank you,” she mouthed af­ter her hus­band de­cided to wait and do some ad­di­tional re­search.

Scam­mers are quick to home in on peo­ple’s cu­rios­ity, grief and/or ad­mi­ra­tion fol­low­ing the death of a high-pro­file per­son­al­ity.

The Bet­ter Busi­ness Bu­reau is­sued a warn­ing this week cau­tion­ing con­sumers to watch out for Bryant-re­lated click­bait and to “not let their mourn­ing cloud their judg­ment.”

“Ev­ery time there’s a celebrity death, we see scam­mers take ad­van­tage of peo­ple,” said Katherine Hutt, na­tional spokesper­son for the Bet­ter Busi­ness Bu­reau.

Fol­low­ing the death of co­me­dian Robin Wil­liams in 2014, an email cir­cu­lated on Face­book promis­ing a “good­bye” video that was sup­pos­edly recorded by the ac­tor just be­fore he took his own life.

But when peo­ple clicked the link, they were sent to a fake BBC News site, ac­cord­ing to an ad­vi­sory is­sued at the time by Sy­man­tec, a se­cu­rity soft­ware com­pany, which has since changed its name to Nor­ton LifeLock. Users were told they had to in­stall an ap­pli­ca­tion on their com­puter or fill out a sur­vey to view the video, which didn’t ex­ist.

“Scam­mers op­er­at­ing these sites use af­fil­i­ate pro­grams to earn money for the com­ple­tion of sur­veys and file down­loads,” the cy­ber­se­cu­rity com­pany warned.

Sham links could con­tain mal­ware in­tended to cap­ture your per­sonal and fi­nan­cial data, which could lead to iden­tity theft, Hutt said.

“We ex­pect the scam­mers to do some­thing sim­i­lar to what they did when Robin Wil­liams died,” she said.

Be care­ful of click­ing links promis­ing that pro­ceeds from the sale of Bryant me­mora­bilia will go to a char­ity. Use cau­tion when click­ing sto­ries with sen­sa­tional headlines teas­ing “never seen be­fore” videos or pho­tos of Bryant and his fam­ily. Bryant’s 13-year-old daugh­ter, Gianna, and seven oth­ers died in the he­li­copter crash as well.

The Bet­ter Busi­ness Bu­reau of­fers the fol­low­ing tips to con­sumers ei­ther look­ing for Bryant mer­chan­dise or search­ing for ar­ti­cles about his life and death.

• Watch out for fake shop­ping sites. Avoid un­fa­mil­iar web­sites. Scam­mers can also eas­ily im­per­son­ate le­git­i­mate on­line shop­ping sites. Don’t fol­low a link to a site. Search for it your­self.

• Don’t rush to pur­chase stuff. “Take your time,” Hutt urged. “There will be plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties to buy mer­chan­dise or me­mora­bilia. If you are be­ing rushed, that’s a big red flag — and a sign that some­thing might be shady.”

• Check for the se­cu­rity set­tings. If the site is se­cure, its web address should start with “https://” and in­clude a lock icon on the pur­chase or shop­ping-cart page. If you hover over a link you can see its true des­ti­na­tion.

• Use credit not debit. Keep in mind that your debit card is di­rectly tied to your bank ac­count. There is not much of a de­lay from the time of your pur­chase un­til the funds are with­drawn. This means fraud­u­lent trans­ac­tions can quickly do a lot of dam­age. Con­sider us­ing a credit card for on­line pur­chases. The con­sumer pro­tec­tions are stronger for credit card users. If your credit card is used with­out your per­mis­sion, you can only be held li­able for up to $50. And even then, most banks won’t try to col­lect that from you. If a prod­uct is dam­aged or not de­liv­ered, you can dis­pute the charges and you have an ally — your credit card is­suer — which can with­hold pay­ment un­til the sit­u­a­tion is in­ves­ti­gated and set­tled.

• Look out for de­ceit­ful dis­counts. I know you want to save money, but don’t re­spond to an un­so­licited email from an un­known source promis­ing some great deal.

Just be care­ful out there, and ex­er­cise ex­treme cau­tion if you’re look­ing for some­thing to re­mind you of Bryant’s le­gacy.

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