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Hundreds Of Fake Articles About Family Murder Are Spreading In Germany

Each hoax article is exactly the same, except for one important detail.

Last updated on July 3, 2018, at 1:58 p.m. ET

Posted on December 15, 2016, at 3:02 p.m. ET

Hundreds of fake news articles about a family drama ("familiendrama") are spreading in Germany. The stories all falsely claim that two children were murdered and their father committed suicide. Each version is exactly the same except for one important detail: the location of the crime changes from one story to the next.

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In November, German news outlets Nordbayerischer Kurier, inFranken.de and TV Oberfranken reported on one version of the hoax. That story claimed the murder-suicide happened in Bayreuth, a town in the German province of Bavaria.

But rather than being an isolated story, a search of the headline on Facebook turned up many other versions of the article from the same website.

Facebook

All of the stories are published on a site called Newscenters.today, which only publishes fake news. The site is filled with hundreds of different versions of that same story, just with different locations in the headlines.

Newscenters today

The earliest stories were published in November, and the site continues to add news ones regularly.

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Anyone who visits the site is greeted with a pop-up that attempts to install malware on their computer. The website also earns money from ads.

Newscenters Today

Newscenters.today doesn't list any ownership or contact information. But a search revealed that the domain was registered by someone in the country of Georgia.

A previous investigation by BuzzFeed News found several English-language sites running a similar scam that involved churning our fake articles about terrorist attacks in different cities. Those sites were also owned by people in Georgia.BuzzFeed News attempt to contact the owner of Newscenters.today but did not receive a reply. Though the domain may have been registered by someone in Georgia, it's impossible to know if the people running the scam are actually located there or elsewhere.
whois.domaintools.com

A previous investigation by BuzzFeed News found several English-language sites running a similar scam that involved churning our fake articles about terrorist attacks in different cities. Those sites were also owned by people in Georgia.

BuzzFeed News attempt to contact the owner of Newscenters.today but did not receive a reply. Though the domain may have been registered by someone in Georgia, it's impossible to know if the people running the scam are actually located there or elsewhere.

These scammers help their hoaxes spread by setting up Facebook pages that are meant to look like real news organizations in different regions of Germany.

Facebook

They also share their articles in local Facebook groups, like this one in Bielefeld, Germany.

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The scammers also set up fake Facebook profiles and then use them to share their articles. "Sheri Eberhart" is a fake profile created just minutes before the article was posted in the aforementioned Facebook group.

This is a common technique used by spammers and scam artists on Facebook.
Facebook

This is a common technique used by spammers and scam artists on Facebook.

Their goal is to get real people to see the stories and to start sharing them with their friends. It often works:

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Want to learn more? Find out how to spot fake news with this checklist.

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This post was translated from German.

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