Making Dollars Out of Death

You’re on your evening commute, riding the 28 bus to Daly City Bart station, and you decide to take a look at your Twitter timeline to see what new kale recipes and animal rights issues your friends have decided to center their tweets around today. Your eyes get big as you notice the hashtag “RIP” with your favorite artist’s name next to it. Shocked, you click the hyperlinked text and read a few of the top tweets. Your thumbs are quickly typing your favorite celebrity’s name into the Google search bar because you can’t believe that it’s true. The top story appears and as you read the headline, with tears in your eyes, you accept that indeed it is true.

You return to your twitter timeline and you see a tweet with a link from a crowd funding campaign claiming to to be raising money for the family of the deceased. In good faith, being the “Stan” that you are, you click the link, read the brief write-up explaining why the family needs this money, and it seems legitimate. You grab your credit card and unknowingly begin giving scammers access to your banking information.

Scammers have now found another way to play upon people’s emotions by exploiting your favorite celebrities after their deaths.

One of the many ways that scammers are doing this is through fraudulent crowd funding campaigns claiming to be raising money for the deceased artist’s family, who, due to some circumstance and despite their family member’s success, can not properly memorialize them without your contribution. For example, Bay Area rapper “The Jacka” of the infamous group Mob Figaz was shot and killed this week and within hours there were multiple crowd funding platforms with campaigns purported to be on his behalf.

Scammers are also using fraudulent headlines attached to advertisements that funnel foot-traffic to sites that gain access to your internet habits. This markets things to you via a process called ‘data mining’.

When Whitney Houston died, record executives, along with her managers, decided to raise the price of her greatest hits compilation albums as well as pull her movies from streaming apps so that sales of her DVDs would increase. Only later did they apologize for trying to profit from her untimely death.

Similarly, when popular hip-hop curator and pioneer Steven Rodriguez, better known as ASAP Yams, passed away in January, there was a slew of Instagram boutiques selling T-shirts with his image on it merely hours after news of his death hit the Internet. While these boutique owners may be less malicious in their approach than say someone trying to steal your identity, there is a certain opportunistic element in profiting from someone’s death that can’t be ignored.

You could be thinking that you’re helping your favorite artist’s family in their time of need when, in reality, there is someone at a desk hoping to make money from misfortune.