One very cruel way to ensure lots of page (and ad) views on the Internet is to come up with a death hoax story about a popular celebrity. Some celebrities have been targeted more than once, including the “Mr. Bean” actor, Rowan Atkinson.

Reports started coming out last year, saying Atkinson had been found dead in his California home after Marin County Police responded to an emergency call. The report inferred that Atkinson had committed suicide due to severe depression. While reports gave little details, they did trick fans into sharing the story and offering their condolences to the comedian’s family.

Car crash death for ‘Mr. Bean’

As noted by the Bitbag, Atkinson “died” again in March this year, where he was allegedly killed in a car crash. Once again little detail was offered, but photoshopped images were included of various media websites, like the BBC and Fox News, inferring that major media outlets had reported on the story – so it must be true, right?

As is normal with the Internet, people believed the story of Atkinson’s untimely passing and the articles were shared by hundreds of thousands of people on social media in just a short space of time.

The New York Daily News reports that some of the media articles listed Atkinson as being two years younger than he actually is, so they couldn’t even get his age right. That article mentions that not only is the Mr. Bean star still alive and well, but he has recently resumed his portrayal of the French detective, Jules Maigret in a U.K. television series.

The worst part of these fake death stories is that people, particularly on Facebook, often just scan the headline, then share the post widely on the social media platform, completely unaware that it is false. Shares of the Atkinson death story are cropping up again on social media and in most cases, people don’t even notice the date on the article.

Celebrities and royalty targeted by false death reports

Atkinson is, of course, not alone in being targeted with fake death hoax reports. In recent times, Sylvester Stallone, Jaden Smith (Will’s son), Paul McCartney, Blake Shelton and Miley Cyrus and others have also “died” according to the clickbait articles. Even Queen Elizabeth has been targeted with false death claims. It works every time, drawing page views and sympathy from around the world.

However, besides the obvious benefits of ad revenue, fake death notices can also be used to trick the reader by leading them into a phishing trap or malware attack.

Some are merely created by a bored person to get a little online attention and to feel important for a while.

Probably the best idea when the death hoax stories start doing the rounds is to check with a reputable news site to see if they are reporting the story. Obviously, when a celebrity dies, the story will be covered widely by the media and not just on one suspect website, so don’t believe everything you see online.

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