Sigh.. it seems there's a sucker born every minute.
Messages are being spread by breathless fans of Justin Bieber that their beloved pint-size warbler has come to a sticky end in a car crash. The posts, which are being shared on Facebook, Twitter and (probably) other social networks, all claim to link to a breaking news story.
Part of the message reads as follows:
THIS STORY IS STILL DEVELOPING...
(Local Team News 9) Justin Bieber died in a single vehicle crash on Route 80 between Morristown and Roswell. He was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics responding to the vehicle accident and was identified by photo ID found on his body. Alcohol and drugs do not appear to have been a factor in this accident - July 18, 2013
Justin Bieber flipped vehicle Highway Safety Investigators have told reporters that Justin Bieber lost control while driving a friend's vehicle on Interstate 80 and rolled the vehicle several times killing him instantly.
The vehicle was believed to have been traveling at approximately 95 miles per hour in a 55mph zone at the time of the accident.
Witnesses have stated that Justin Bieber's car crossed the double lines several times prior to the accident and hit the center lane divider causing the vehicle to flip and roll.
If the details of this story sound familiar, then maybe it's because there was a story from Global Associated News back in January which claimed Pet Shop Boys star Neil Tennant had died in a car crash.
Oddly enough, that was also said to have happened on Route 80 between Morristown and Roswell. Clearly a dangerous stretch of raod for pop stars!
If you haven't guessed by now (shame on you..), the news stories are completely false. Justin Bieber does seem to have a propensity for car accidents, but he hasn't been killed, and the star has not had a car crash on that stretch of road.
Instead, Facebook and Twitter users are being duped by a practical joke website which allows you to put *any* person's name in the URL and it will create a fake death news story about them.
So, for instance, if you change the URL to contain the name of HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy character Zaphod Beeblebrox rather than Justin Bieber, we discover that it is hoopy frood Zaphod who has perished.
Perhaps Zaphod drank one too many Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters and found his Super-Chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses have turned completely black as he spiralled off the hyperspace freeway?
It's a great way to drive traffic to a website, that's for sure. And presumably whoever owns the website is earning some cash from the advertisements that get displayed.
But it doesn't say anything particularly flattering about the people who share and click on such links without checking their facts. It's precisely this type of thoughtlessness and reckless online behaviour which social engineering hackers and fraudsters exploit on a daily basis.
You should always check your facts with a reputable online source, rather than believe the first website you stumble across and think twice about sharing untrustworthy "breaking news" (or even "braking news") with your social networking friends.
If you are on Facebook, and want to be kept updated with news about hoaxes and scams, security and privacy risks, and tips on how to protect yourself online, join the Graham Cluley Security News Facebook page.