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.
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.
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.
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 doesn't list any ownership or contact information. But a search revealed that the domain was registered by someone in the country of Georgia.
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.
They also share their articles in local Facebook groups, like this one in Bielefeld, Germany.
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.
Their goal is to get real people to see the stories and to start sharing them with their friends. It often works:
Want to learn more? Find out how to spot fake news with this checklist.
This post was translated from German.
Karsten Schmehl ist Reporter für Social News und Desinformation bei BuzzFeed News und lebt in Berlin.
Contact Karsten Schmehl at email@example.com.
Jane Lytvynenko is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto, Canada. PGP fingerprint: A088 89E6 2500 AD3C 8081 BAFB 23BA 21F3 81E0 101C.
Contact Jane Lytvynenko at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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