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Watch out! Scams emerge surrounding Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt divorce

Watch out! Scams emerge surrounding Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt divorce
Jaguar PS / Shutterstock.com

Are Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt splitting up? Millions around the world heard the heartbreaking news today as media reports began spreading like fire.

The celebrity couple, who met in 2004 during the filming of "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," began dating shortly thereafter. Since that time, the two high-profile figures have been at the center of attention, at least as far as the media was concerned. From the adoption of their children, Maddox, Pax and Zahara, to the births of their biological children, Shiloh, Knox and Vivienne, and even their surprise wedding in 2014, the media has followed the lives of this couple for more than a decade.

And now, it appears it's over. Major media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, USA Today and others have all confirmed that Angelina Jolie has filed for divorce from husband, Brad Pitt. According to the couple's lawyer, the decision was made for the well-being of the family. No other insight as to why the couple is splitting up has been officially made public at this time. Instead, the couple is asking for their privacy.

You might be wondering why we're sharing this particular story in our news coverage. Celebrity topics aren't something we cover regularly. However, when big events like this happen, it doesn't take long for the internet to do what the internet does best: Sprout scams and rumors.

As of this morning, a scam surrounding the couple's divorce has already taken root. Claims were made that Jolie, in her grief, had committed suicide. Posts began popping up on social media encouraging people to click on links to the fake story of Jolie's death. The links even appeared to be from reputable media outlets, such as ABC News and CNN; however, once clicked on, people were directed to a fake page designed to steal their personal information.

Angelina Jolie is still alive, of course.

In the hype of the news of the couple's split, scammers are seizing the opportunity for easy click bait. And that's why you need to be extremely careful right now. Keep reading to see the types of scams that could arise surrounding the celebrities.

1. Like-Farming

Like-farming is when scammers post an attention-grabbing story on Facebook for the purpose of cultivating likes and shares. Based on the way Facebook works, the more likes and shares a post has, the more likely it is to show up in people's News Feeds.

This gives the scammer more eyeballs for posts that trick people out of information or send them to malicious downloads. The big question, of course, is why Facebook doesn't stop these posts before they get too big. And that's where the real scam comes in.

Scammers have found a simple way to fly under the radar during the early phases of their operation. The story they originally post to Facebook has nothing dangerous about it. It's just a regular story that anyone might post.

Only after the post gets a certain number of likes and shares does the scammer edit it and add something malicious. In fact, if you go back through your history of liked posts, you might find that some of them have changed to something you wouldn't have liked in a million years.

One popular type of story is the emotional one. You've definitely seen the posts showing rescue animals and asking you to like if you think they're cute. Or maybe it's a medical story where you're asked to like that the person was cured or to let them know they're still beautiful after surgery.

There are also the posts that ask for a like to show that you're against something the government is doing, or that you disagree with something terrible happening in the world. Or maybe it's the ones that say "If I get X number of likes, then something amazing will happen for me" or "I was challenged to get X number of likes."

Basically, any post that asks you to like it for emotional reasons, unless you know the person who created the original post, is quite possibly a like-farm post. Of course, emotional posts aren't the only types of post you need to watch for. Click here for more types of posts you should avoid.

2. Phishing scams

When you think of phishing scams, the first thing that comes to mind is an email in your inbox. However, phishing scams take other forms - one of which is social media.

Back in August, we shared a phishing scam that was fooling nearly two-thirds of Twitter users. The scam hid within tweets that looked completely innocent, however, the links these posts carried led to malicious websites. Tens of thousands of victims fell for this scam, leading to over $931 million in losses.

What's scary about these particular phishing scams is that there are few warning signs. With email phishing scams, you can typically weed them out fairly easily, since they're poorly written and designed.

However, social media posts on Twitter and Facebook are generally shorter and it's not uncommon to spot typos hiding within them. Many legitimate websites also use link shorteners to clean up their posts, so abbreviated links don't look all that fishy.

The best way to avoid these scams is to hover your mouse over the link itself. The URL where the link leads will then be displayed in the bottom left-hand corner of your computer screen. Before you click, review this URL to make sure it's a site you actually recognize.

For more helpful tricks on avoiding phishing scams, press play and listen to this special podcast episode.

3. Ransomware

Most forms of ransomware require you to click on something, whether it is a download link or an email attachment, before they're able to infect your computer. But, once your computer, tablet or smartphone is infected, recovering your files is a complete nightmare. The malware encrypts all of your files, then the hacker charges you hundreds or even thousands of dollars before they'll send you the decryption code.

In some cases, the hackers still delete all of your files even after you pay. It's no wonder why ransomware has become one of the largest growing cyberthreats since 2013.

Protect yourself against ransomware by using caution whenever your click. In this particular circumstance, avoid clicking on sensationalized headlines, such as the headlines surrounding Angelina Jolie's death. These stories are designed to trigger an emotion that gets you to click. Also, be highly suspicious of anything that asks you to open an attachment or download something.

Right now is also a good time to make sure that all of your software is up to date. If you've been putting off regular maintenance, whether on your laptop or mobile device, don't surf the web again until those updates are complete. Software patches fix bugs or flaws with your operating system.

Lastly, and most importantly, make sure you have good antivirus software installed. A strong antivirus program will help you stop ransomware and any other malware attack in its tracks before they do extensive damage.

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