Hoaxes as Threats


A few days ago I went to see the latest installment of the Harry Potter movies.  So it is timely that a new Internet hoax emerged today playing on the popularity of the film and its actors.  A hoax spread rapidly today via email and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter about the death of Emma Watson who plays Hermione Granger in the popular films.  The hoax claimed that the actress had died in a car accident.  Below is one example of the bogus news report:

On July 24, 2009, Watson was en route to her mansion in Oxfordshire, England. Police footage captured her driving with speeds up to 80 miles per hour on very narrow roads. Oxfordshire paramedics received a 999 call at 12:22 p.m. (GMT), about an sportcar having crashed into a wall at a petrol station. At this point it was still unknown that the victim was indeed Emma Watson. Three minutes after the call got through, paramedics arrived at Watson's location. She was reportedly not breathing and the car was total loss. After 5 minutes the Oxfordshire Fire Department managed to get Watson out of her car. Resuscitation efforts continued en route to the Oxfordshire's Medical Center, and for an hour after arriving there at 1:45 p.m. (GMT). She was pronounced dead at 2:10 p.m. (GMT).

Unfortunately, by forwarding this information, people are unwittingly helping scammers install rogue anti-virus software on unsuspecting users’ computers.  Criminals have used blackhat SEO poisoning to get searches related to Emma Watson’s death ranked very high in search results.  For example, I did a Google search on “emma watson die” and the 6th and 8th results were redirects to malicious sites that attempted to install rogue anti-virus software:


Fortunately, Google warns that this is a malicious web site due its listing at stopbadware.org.   However, there are many others besides this one in the top 20 search results so do yourself a favor and stay away from them.  And most importantly, don’t forward any news articles or emails related to this hoax.  In general, this is good advice for email chain letters, get rich quick spam, jokes, and any other nuisance email that finds its way into your inbox.

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