SYDNEY — In a sick revelation, scammers have set up fake Facebook profiles using the identities of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 victims amid claims that credit cards may have been stolen from the crash site.
On Friday, Ukrainian MP Anton Gerashchenko said via his Facebook page that "death hunters" were collecting cash, jewelry and the credit cards of the victims of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing-777, which was shot down over eastern Ukraine on Thursday.
"My humble request to the relatives of the victims to freeze their credit cards, so that they won’t lose their assets to terrorists!" Gerashchenko said in the post.
In response to the claims, the Dutch Banking Association said in a statement that the next of kin would be compensated for any damages resulting from credit card theft related to the crash.
"International media reports that victims of debit cards may have been stolen. Most important is that a debit card without a PIN is basically unusable," read the statement (via a Google-translated version of the Dutch text). "If necessary, banks will take preventive measures. Any damage resulting from abuse of [bank cards] will compensate the next of kin."
Of the 298 people who perished in the crash on Thursday, 193 passengers were Dutch. After days in the elements, the decomposing bodies of many of the victims were put in black body bags and moved onto refrigerated trains by Ukraine emergency services, reportedly under duress by Russia-backed rebels.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) journalist Phil Williams, who was at the crash site, said it was clear that the belongings of passengers from the flight had been rummaged through and handbags and wallets had been taken.
"It really does look, I'm afraid to say, as though there has been some sort of looting here because virtually every bag we've seen has been opened," he said. "It looks like it's been rummaged through, and if that's true that's a very distressing element to this whole disaster."
The Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said at a press conference that the treatment of the corpses by the rebels was "utterly disgusting" and anger has been growing among the families of the victims over the treatment of their loved ones.
"I am shocked by the images of utterly disrespectful behavior at the crash site … There are people fooling around amongst the debris with personal and recognizable items of the victims. This is utterly disgusting," he said.
In more disturbing news for the families, it has been revealed that the identities of victims from around the world have been used for scam Facebook accounts. At least five of the fraudulent accounts have been set up in the names of Australians who died in the Malaysia Airlines tragedy — including three children from Western Australia. The pages have since been closed down by Facebook.
The pages shared a link to a video which claimed to show footage of the MH17 crash, but instead directed users to a site with a multitude of pop-up ads for suspicious services. The clickbait read: "Video Camera Caught the moment plane MH17 Crash over Ukraine. Watch here the video of Crash."
Alastair MacGibbon, the director of the University of Canberra's Centre for Internet Safety, toldFairfax Media that fraudulent Facebook pages can be extremely lucrative for criminals after a large-scale incident. The fraudsters make money by directing traffic to certain sites.
"Crooks are super-fast these days at picking up on anything that's remotely topical, and working out how to monetize it from a criminal point of view," he said. "It's a really distasteful trend."
Australian victims affected by the scam include young Perth siblings Otis, Evie and Mo Maslin, Liliane Derden from Canberra and German national Fatima Dyczynski, who was moving to Western Australia.
On Monday, the ABC reported that the Australian Government is considering declaring the downing of MH17 a terrorist attack. If it is categorized as a terrorist attack, the families of the victims would be eligible to receive $75,000 Australian dollars (about $70,400 U.S. dollars) each. Such a payment was granted to the families of the Australian victims of the Bali bombings in 2002 and the Australian victims of the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001 in New York City.
The Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott called for a proper international investigation. "It is an absolutely shambolic situation," he said in a televised press conference on Monday. "It looks more like a garden clean-up than a forensic investigation."Live Updates on MH17: Rebel Leader Denies Interfering With Crash Site
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