07/21/2014 05:15 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Fake MH17 Facebook Tributes Support Porn Sites, Gambling Ads

Christopher Furlong via Getty Images

Scammers are capitalizing on the tragic Malaysian crash by setting up fake tribute Facebook pages that bring in quick cash.

At least six such unauthorized pages have been set up in "memory" of victims killed on the doomed Flight MH17 on Thursday, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. But when users clicked on the sites -- they didn't have the opportunity to honor the dead, they were lead to pop-up ads for online gambling, get-rich-quick schemes, and other suspicious products.

Three of the fake pages were set up in the names of children who perished on the flight.

One Facebook page dedicated to Liam Sweeney -- one of the 298 crash victims -- urged viewers to click on a link called, "Video Camera Caught the moment plane MH17 Crash over Ukraine." Instead, the link took users to a pornographic website, according to the BBC.

Such schemes are "extremely lucrative" Alastair MacGibbon, director of the University of Canberra's Centre for Internet Safety, told the Sydney Morning Herald. These groups are often rewarded with advertising or referral revenue for directing traffic to certain sites, according to MacGibbon.

MacGibbon said that Facebook would be quick to take action.

But taking advantage of empathetic supporters eager to help mourning families in the wake of a tragedy isn’t anything new.

After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, which claimed 26 lives, scammers acted speedily too.

Some took to Facebook to set up bogus memorial pages, others launched flat-out fake fundraising sites.

The family of Noah Pozner, a 6-year-old killed during the tragedy, learned that someone had set up a charity site in his memory to make a quick buck off of their personal nightmare, the Daily News reported. The site encouraged donors to send funds to an address in Bronx, New York.

"These scammers," Noah’s uncle, Alexis Haller, told the paper, "are taking away from families and the spirits of dead kids."

Even before the official death toll was released after last year’s Boston Marathon bombings, at least 20 suspicious fundraising sites cropped up, according to

"While we don’t know every registrant’s intention, we do know historically that many of the domain names registered immediately after were done to get traffic and make money parking domains or worse," Michael Berkins wrote on -- a site founded by domain name experts.

The Better Business Bureau offers a number of suggestions to help donors from getting scammed in the wake of a tragedy.

Among its recommendations, the organizations suggests researching each cause on its website, and avoiding charities with "vague" missions and those that only accept cash donations.

"Tragedies inspire people to give," H. Art Taylor, president and CEO of Better Business Bureaus Wise Giving Alliance, said in a press release after the Boston bombings, "but, tragedies -- whether natural disasters or man-made catastrophes -- also inspire scammers to take advantage of that generosity. Social media, in particular, makes it very easy to reach a lot of people quickly, when emotions are running high and people feel the need to take action, any action, to help."

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  • Karlijn Keijzer
    Indiana University
    Karlijn Keijzer was a 25-year-old doctoral student in the chemistry department at the Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences. “On behalf of the entire Indiana University community, I want to express my deepest sympathies to Karlijn’s family and friends over her tragic death,” Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie said in a statement. “Karlijn was an outstanding student and a talented athlete, and her passing is a loss to the campus and the university. Our hearts also go out to the families of all the victims of this senseless act.”
  • John, Yuli, Arjuna and Sri Paulissen
    Widi Yuwono, the brother of Yuli Hastini, right, shows her sister's family portrait with her Dutch husband John Paulissen and their two children Arjuna and Sri who were on board of the crashed Malaysia Airlines flight 17, at his residence in Solo, Central Java, Indonesia, Friday, July 18, 2014. The Malaysian jetliner that went down in war-torn Ukraine did not make any distress call, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Friday, adding that its flight route had been declared safe by the global civil aviation body.
  • Wayan Sujana
    Christopher Furlong / Getty Images
    A photograph of Indonesian man Wayan Sujana of Bali, believed to be missing on Air Malaysia flight MH17, is fixed to the ticketing desk of Air Malaysia at Schiphol Airport on July 18, 2014 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
  • Joep Lange
    Peter Lowie/AMC/AP
    In this October 2008 photo provided by AMC Amsterdam on Friday, July 18, 2014, former president of the International AIDS Society Joep Lange is seen. A large number of world-renowned AIDS researchers and activists heading to an international AIDS conference in Australia were on board a Malaysian jetliner that was shot down over Ukraine, officials said Friday, as news of their deaths sparked an outpouring of grief across the global scientific community. Among them was Joep Lange, a well-known researcher from the Netherlands . (Peter Lowie/AMC/AP)
  • Glenn Thomas
    WHO / AP
    An undated photo made available Friday, July 18, 2014, by the World Health Organization of Glenn Thomas, 49, a media officer at the WHO in Geneva, who died on board Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 which was shot down over the Ukraine Thursday as it traveled from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. (AP Photo/WHO)
  • Hendry Se
    Family of Hendry Se/AFP/Getty Images
    This handout photograph released on July 18, 2014 by the family of Hendry Se, an Indonesian passenger on the crashed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, shows Henrdy at her graduation. (Family of Hendry Se/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Quinn Schansman
    Dutch-American student Quinn Lucas Schansman was reportedly on his way to a family vacation in Malaysia.
  • Nick Norris
    Nick Norris from Perth, Australia, was on board with three of his grandchildren.
  • Ninik Yuriani
    Handout / AFP / Getty Images
  • Sister Philomene Tiernan
    Kincoppal-Rose Bay School
  • Mary Menke and Gerry Menke
    East Gippsland Business Awards
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    Toorak College
  • Susan Horder
  • Howard Horder
  • Jill Guard
  • Roger Guard
  • Liliane Derden
  • Elaine Teoh
  • Emiel Mahler
  • Wan Amran Wan Husin
  • Mo, Otis and Evie Maslin
  • Liam Sweeney
  • Emma Bell
  • Shazana Salleh
  • Angeline Premila
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  • Helene Sidelik
  • Pim de Kuijer
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