Scam Attempts Likely to Follow Virginia Shooting

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Tragedy strikes a community, leaving shock and outrage.

Tragedies leave communities reeling with grief, shock and outrage. Sadly criminals swarm to these events for their own personal financial gain.

Better Business Bureau is warning consumers that it expects scammers will use the recent Virginia murders of two television journalists to trick consumers with click-baiting and phony charity schemes. Click-baiting, the posting of fraudulent links to infect computer users, often follows in the wake of tragic events as scammers use public curiosity to spread malware. Phony charities also often appear to take advantage of public sympathy.

On Wednesday, August 26th, reporter Alison Parker and photographer Adam Ward of WDBJ7 in Roanoke, Virginia, were shot and killed during a live television broadcast. The attacker, a former colleague, recorded the murders and then posted the attack on social media. The videos were quickly taken down, but were captured and saved beforehand and have been widely shared across the internet since.

BBB is concerned that these videos create easier avenues for scammers to trick consumers into clicking and viewing the horrific act. Scammers may also use the shocking nature of the story to solicit for questionable appeals that have no authorized connections to the victims’ families.

Please honor the memory of these young victims by donating only to official fundraising sources and by protecting yourself from "Click Bait" scams.

Don't take the bait. Stay away from promotions of "exclusive," "shocking" or "sensational" video or photos.

When in doubt, throw it out. Delete unsolicited emails or social media messages that raise red flags.

Hover over a link to see its true destination. Before you click, mouse over the link to see where it will take you. Don't click on links leading to unfamiliar websites.

Don't trust your “friends” online. It might not actually be your friends who are "liking" or sharing scam links to photos. Their account may have been hacked.

Report scam posts on Facebook by following these instructions.

Report malware or spam on Twitter by following these instructions.

Verify scholarship/charity funds before donating. The families of the victims have released a list of scholarship funds:

Alison B. Parker Memorial Fund at James Madison University.

Alison Bailey Parker Memorial Scholarship at Patrick Henry Community College

Salem Education Foundation and Alumni Association scholarship to Virginia Tech in honor of SHS alumnus Adam Ward

The Adam L. Ward Scholarship at Virginia Tech (through WDBJ7, 2807 Hershberger Road, NW, Roanoke, VA 24017)

Respecting victims and their families: Organizations raising funds should get permission from the families to use either the names of the victims and/or any photographs of them. Some charities raising funds for the victims of previous shootings did not do this and were the subject of criticism from the victims’ families.

What if a family sets up its own assistance fund? After such a tragedy, families of the victims sometimes decide to set up their own assistance funds. If so, be mindful that such funds might not be set up as charities. Before donating verify that the assistance fund was established by the family.

ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2014, people turned to BBB more than 165 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 4.7 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 113 local, independent BBBs in the United States, Canada and Mexico, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution, advertising review, and industry self-regulation. BBB Serving Western Virginia was founded in 1940 and serves 32 counties in Western Virginia.

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Katherine Hutt
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