Online scammers have to stay creative in order to keep luring people in. These days, most of us know not to give out our Social Security numbers or respond to requests for money from “royalty” in Nigeria. But that doesn’t mean we’re scam-proof.
Instead, fraudsters today are more likely to use tantalizing viral videos to try to lure us into clicking something we shouldn’t—or worse, give them permission to post to our social media accounts.
That’s exactly what happened over the last few weeks with a “shocking roller coaster accident” video appearing on people’s Facebook walls. The post appears to be a link to a horrifying news story complete with a gruesome video. One version reads:
(Shocking Video Footage) 18 Dead in shocking roller coaster accident
Aside from overusing the word “shocking,” there are a few telltale signs that this is a scam. When you click it, instead of going to a site with the video you’re asked to install an app. This isn’t necessary and most respectable news outlets don’t operate this way. The fact that the news outlet purports to be “Foxs News”—not Fox News—seems a little suspicious, too. But Facebook users are accustomed to quickly clicking through some app permissions to get to content, and scammers take advantage of that. A couple of clicks later you’ve given the scammers permission to post as you on Facebook, all because they know people can’t resist an accident story.
But is this particular accident story even believable?
The reality is that roller coaster accidents are extremely rare and seldom involve multiple people. All serious amusement park ride accidents in Florida must be reported, and those statistics are a lot less scary than you might think. Most accidents don’t involve a malfunctioning ride at all, but happen as someone gets out of the ride at the end—perhaps because they are dizzy or disoriented—or involve chest pains and similar symptoms simply from the strain of a properly functioning ride. Nationwide, the chance of being injured when you go to an amusement park is 1 in 9 million.
Perhaps most notably, these accidents are rarely fatal. While any injury sustained during a ride is serious and can have lifelong effects, most people survive them and there are 2 to 5 deaths per year nationwide from amusement park accidents.
That means that the idea of a massive roller coaster derail—one which allegedly kills 18 people at once—is very far-fetched. While such accidents are not impossible, if one happened it would be breaking news on every major media outlet; you’d hear about it everywhere, not just from a shady app on Facebook.