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Online scams emerge following Boston Marathon bombing

Open Source Community | April 17, 2013
Don't fall for online scams or falsified information in the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy.

A handful of fake social media accounts have emerged to capitalize on yesterday's bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, which took at least three lives and injured more than a hundred others.

One Twitter account with the handle @_BostonMarathon began pandering for donations in the form of retweets within hours of the explosions, sending out messages that read "For every retweet we receive we will donate $1 to the #BostonMarathon victims #PrayForBoston." Despite the fact that the Twitter account was in no way related to the official Boston Marathon promotional team, it was convincing enough to draw more than 50,000 rewteets before it was reported for spam and shut down.

The Huffington Post reports that the Twitter account @HopeForBoston posted false photos of children who purportedly died while running in the marathon. The accounts claimed that the children were running the marathon to commemmorate classmates who were killed during the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, last December.

One photo showing a young girl wearing a runner's bib that reads "Joe Cassella 5K" has been refuted by the Joe Cassella Foundation, which said the image was being used falsely. The other photo showed a young boy running across a finish line of a race that doesn't show any evidence of being related to the Boston Marathon, with the words "Retweet For Respect" written across it. The accompanying Tweet claims that it was a photo of an 8-year-old boy who died in the explosion. Although an 8-year-old boy was confirmed as one of the fatal victims of the blast, officials from the Boston Marathon have clarified that only adults are allowed to run in the marathon.

The two Tweets showing photos of children who were not involved with the Boston Marathon were the first two Tweets ever sent from the @HopeForBoston account, suggesting that the account was created in the aftermath of the event. Despite the fact that both photos have been proven false, they've ammassed more than 100,000 retweets collectively. So far, @HopeForBoston remains online.

The Domains reports that more than 125 domain names related to the attack, such as,, and, were purchased in the hours after the attack was reported. These suggest that internet users are trying to capitalize on the bombings by selling the domain names for profit to legitimate charities, or, worse, accepting false donations through the sites themselves.

The Better Business Bureau has warned consumers to use vigilance when choosing charities to donate to if they'd like to help the victims or relief efforts, as fake charities often attempt to steal well-intentioned donations following tragedies like this one.


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