Back in 2014, Facebook launched a feature called Safety Check, which in wake of dangerous incidents allows users in an affected area to mark themselves as safe, so that family and friends can know that they are alright. Following a mass shooting in Las Vegas, in which 58 people were killed and hundreds injured, scammers tried to use the Safety Check feature to receive bitcoin donations.
When a user marks himself as safe, Facebook posts a message on his news feed in order to make the information public. It also creates a page in which users can check in on friends and see breaking news – and that’s where scammers tried to earn some bitcoin. Following the shooting in Las Vegas, that page was filled up with websites attempting to either drive in traffic, or ask for bitcoin donations.
Notably, one of the websites that asked for bitcoin donations, MyTVToday.com, featured a video titled “Gunfire heard at mass shooting incident in Las Vegas, Nevada 10/2/17 – Funny video, Game Show, Clip hot.”
Facebook's safety check for Vegas featured websites selling bumper stickers and others asking for Bitcoin donations. https://t.co/gYGYXnRohg
— Gideon Resnick (@GideonResnick) October 2, 2017
According to The Daily Beast, the video was uploaded by a user named Riot Watch, who usually uploads videos of police clashing with protesters. In its description was a call-to-action to a bitcoin donation link.
Diving deeper into MyTVToday.com reveals that the website was seemingly relaunched last month as a YouTube video aggregator that tries to cash in on shock value. One of its videos also tried to imply the Las Vegas mass shooting has something to do with the Illuminati. The website’s owner is seemingly impossible to contact, and its domain ownership is hidden.
When contacted by several news outlets on allowing scammers to take advantage of the situation to make a few bitcoins, Facebook apologized for the placement of those websites on the Safety Check page. The company stated:
“Our Global Security Operations Center spotted the post this morning and removed it. However, its removal was delayed by a few minutes, allowing it to be screen captured and circulated online. We are working to fix the issue that allowed this to happen in the first place and deeply regret the confusion this caused.”