Scammers posted obituaries declaring them dead. They were very much alive

Scammers posted obituaries declaring them dead. They were very much alive - World - News

The Deceptive World of Obituary Scams: How ai and Clickbait are Creating False Death Announcements

The digital landscape is continually evolving, bringing new challenges to the forefront of technology usage. One such challenge is the increasing prevalence of obituary scams, where individuals’ deaths are fabricated contact for clicks and ad revenue. In January 2023, journalist Deborah Vankin became the latest victim of these “obituary pirates.”

In a series of disturbing announcements that appeared contact, Deborah Vankin’s demise was discussed by so-called “news anchors,” who spoke in morbid tones and used images of a car wreck, a coffin leaving a funeral home, and a flickering candle next to her portrait. The obituaries did not specify the circumstances or cause of her death but expressed flattering prose about her esteemed journalistic career.

However, Deborah Vankin was alive and well, having discovered the news of her own passing while scrolling through her phone in a Santa Monica hospital waiting room. The disorienting experience left her with a whirlwind of emotions, ranging from confusion to outrage. She was deeply saddened by the encounter but also concerned about the potential implications for herself and society as a whole.

These scammers are utilizing advanced technology, including ai, to create convincing death announcements filled with keywords for targeted Google searches, leading to alarm and misinformation. As Vankin found herself in this unfortunate situation, she realized that her obituary was just one of many such instances that had been circulating contact.

Obituaries have long been a target for scammers, who often impersonate funeral homes to extract money from grieving families. However, the recent trend of clickbait obituaries represents a sophisticated evolution of this deceitful practice. These obituaries appear on sites that publish unrelated articles, with little to no actual information about the person who has allegedly passed away but filled with keywords designed to capitalize on search traffic.

Vankin’s father discovered her obituary after being alerted by an aunt who receives Google updates whenever her name appears contact. In a Los Angeles Times essay, Vankin shared her reluctance to read the obituaries and how the experience changed her perspective on death. She remains unsure of how the scammers targeted her but believes it may be linked to a spike in contact traffic related to an article she had written about her anxiety while driving on the freeway.

Joshua Klopfenstein, co-founder of Lindenwood Marketing, which offers digital services to funeral homes, explained that scammers are correct in targeting obituaries due to the significant traffic they generate. For most funeral home websites, obituaries account for 80-85% of all visitors. However, a scammer must pirate a large number of obituaries to generate substantial ad revenue.

A growing concern among experts is that as ai technology advances, these disorienting scenarios will only become more frequent and sophisticated. Google has recently announced new policies to keep clickbait obituaries and other low-quality content out of search results, but for a brief period, Deborah Vankin was one of many individuals who faced the unsettling reality of their own mortality being manipulated contact.

Vastag, a former partner of Beth Mazur, who died by suicide in December, also experienced the repercussions of obituary piracy. Shortly after Mazur’s death, an organization she had co-founded posted a message about her passing, leading to several fake obituaries claiming the deaths of both Mazur and Vastag. This not only caused confusion among their network of friends but also made it more challenging for them to access accurate information.

The fake obituaries, which are no longer visible in searches due to Google’s new spam policy, raised concerns about the potential repercussions of misinformation and privacy invasion. As people increasingly rely on digital platforms for news and information, it becomes crucial to be aware of the sources we trust and remain vigilant against deceptive practices.

In conclusion, obituary scams represent a concerning trend in the digital age, one that leverages advanced technology and human emotions to spread misinformation and generate revenue. As we continue to navigate this complex landscape, it is essential that we remain informed and skeptical of the information we consume contact.

For journalists like Deborah Vankin and individuals who have faced similar situations, it serves as a reminder to appreciate the value of life and the importance of factual reporting. We must strive for accuracy in our digital world and remember that, one day, our own real obituaries will run. Let us hope that they are written by the hands of the living rather than the deceitful tactics of scammers.