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Facebook Scam Exploits News of Missing AirAsia Flight QZ8501

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Facebook message claims missing AirAsia Flight QZ8501 has been found in Tacloban, Philippines. The message includes a teaser image of a crashed AirAsia jet and invites you to click a 'Play' button to view 'breaking news' footage. The post claims to be from news outlet CNN.

AirAsia Plane

Brief Analysis

The message is a Facebook survey scam and it does not come from CNN. At the time of writing, AirAsia Flight QZ8501 has not been found. The image in the scam message depicts another AirAsia plane that skidded off a runway back in 2011. If you see this message, do not click any links it contains.


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Detailed Analysis

Facebook 'CNN' Post Claims AirAsia Flight QZ8501 Found

According to this Facebook post, which purports to be 'breaking news' from CNN, missing AirAsia Flight QZ8501 has been found at Tacloban, in the Philippines.

The post includes an image supposedly depicting the downed AirAsia plane. The image features a video 'play' button, which you can supposedly click to see news footage of the find.

Post is a Survey Scam - Not From CNN

However, the message is a survey scam.  It is not from CNN or any other legitimate news outlet.  And, at the time of writing, Flight QZ8501 has not been located.

The image used in the scam depicts another AirAsia plane that skidded off the runway during a downpour at Kuching International Airport in Sarawak, Malaysia. The incident took place in January 2011 and resulted in only minor injuries.

If you click the 'play' button on the bogus message, you will be taken to a fraudulent website that is designed to emulate a CNN news web page. The page appears to host a video that supposedly contains footage of the plane's discovery.

However, a popup on the page will claim that you must like and share the video on Facebook before you can view the footage. But, after you like and share as instructed, another popup will claim that you must complete a survey to see the full video (see screenshot below).

The survey links open dodgy third-party websites that ask for your mobile phone number and other personal details, ostensibly to allow you to go in the draw for various prizes.

But, alas, by providing your mobile number, you are actually signing up for an ongoing and very expensive SMS service that will charge you several dollars for every text message they send.

And, because you provided your name and contact details, you may find that you begin receiving unwelcome and annoying marketing phone calls.

Meanwhile, the scammers who created the fake news post will earn commissions via dodgy affiliate marketing programs every time someone provides their information in a survey.

During the course of the scam, you may also be asked to download a 'video plugin update'. This supposed plugin may contain adware that can hijack your browser.

Beware of Further Scam Posts about Flight QZ8501

Online criminals always quickly exploit disasters such as air crashes. More Flight QZ8501 related scam attempts are likely to be distributed in coming days and weeks.


Last updated: December 29, 2014
First published: December 29, 2014
By Brett M. Christensen
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AirAsia plane skids at Kuching airport