In less than a week since Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down in Ukraine airspace, people have pilfered the crash site for the victims’ personal affects including laptops and credit cards, sparking fraud concerns.
According to a Mashable report, “death hunters” have been trolling the crash site of the 283-passenger Boeing 777 in eastern Ukraine for valuables such as jewelry, cash and credit cards. Ukrainian MP Anton Gerashchenko warned in Facebook post that the victims’ credit cards could be passed on for fraudulent use by the separatist rebels in Russia or Ukraine. “My humble request to the relatives of the victims to freeze their credit cards, so that they won’t loose their assets to terrorists!” Gerashchenko wrote.
In some cases, the scammers have also set up fake Facebook profiles where they profit by diverting traffic to designated sites. According to Australian news site ABC, a consumer watchdog group called SCAMwatch warned that the bogus profiles link to blogs with pop up ads. The scammers make money based on how many users click on the ads.
“It’s a really distasteful trend,” Alastair MacGibbon, director of the University of Canberra’s Centre for Internet Safety, told national newspaper The Canberra Times. “There’s a lot of money in click fraud,” but shutting down the operations are nearly impossible because the sites pop up faster than they can be shut down.
Fraud and identity theft have increased exponentially as more consumers put personal information online. Since 2013, almost 800 million people have had their personal data stolen. But identity and financial fraud is especially common after someone dies, or after natural disasters and tragedies. In nearly 2 million cases, cyber criminals used the deceased’s stolen identities to open up lines of credit, Time reported.
Last week’s MH17 crash and resulting aftermath has escalated tensions between embattled Ukraine, and the rest of the world. Moreover, mounting evidence that Russia had a part in training and arming the Ukrainian rebels who shot down Flight MH17 has further strained the country’s relationship with the United States.
So far, the U.S. has tightened existing economic sanctions against Russia, with other international governments pressing for thorough investigations of the crash. But international relations could fizzle even further if the U.S. implements harsher sanctions including travel bans, boycotts or investigating the country for war crimes as a result of the growing case file on Russia’s role in the crash.