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Viral 'stroke' video used in Facebook scam

You'll get a Facebook message from a friend urging you to click on a link to watch the YouTube video.

By Karen Datko Feb 15, 2011 2:58PM

This post comes from Mark Huffman at partner site


During Sunday night's Grammy Awards, Los Angeles television reporter Serene Branson appeared to be having a stroke during a live report. She slurred words and at times spoke gibberish.

Despite the fact that Branson says she's fine, the video of her on-air meltdown has gone viral on YouTube, and has become a tool for at least one Facebook scam, according to security experts at Sophos, a security software and hardware company.


On his Naked Security blog, Sophos security expert Graham Cluley reports that Facebook users have started getting messages, which look like they are from friends, that say something like "OMG, this reporter had a stroke on Live TV check it out," followed by a link.


If you get this message, Cluley says, don't click on the link.


What happens if you do? You'll get a screen that tells you the video requires a "verified app" to be viewed. To get the app, you will be told that you need to click a button to download it. Post continues after video.

The scammers' plan is to exploit interest in the Serene Branson video by tricking users into approving an application that will be able to access profiles and post messages on the walls of Facebook accounts. Though you can't see it, your own Facebook account will reach out to all your friends, encouraging them to click on the link and view the same video.

Cluley says the scam is spreading very quickly across the social networking site. The scammers make money by requiring you to fill out a brief survey before you can watch the footage. If you complete the survey, the scammers earn a fee.


If you really want to see the footage, you should watch it directly on YouTube.


As for Branson, she reportedly did not seek emergency medical treatment as some media had reported. Her employers, CBS 2 in Los Angeles, said she did visit her physician the next day for some medical tests.


More from and MSN Money:

Feb 15, 2011 7:10PM

Definitely looks like a TIA.  My mom suffered from many of these episodes and minor strokes in between since she was in her forties.  She would havev this type of episode and others, similar. One of the medications she took was to thin the blood.  This did help reduce  the intervals between TIA's and definitely eliminated an incapacitating stoke.  She lived to age 97.


Serene should make sure that she  gets the correct treatment and medication so that she can live a long, healthy life.  God bless her.

Feb 15, 2011 5:54PM

Could very well have been a TIA...a mini stroke.  I had one.

One moment I was speaking clearly, but I had one hell of a headache.  The next, the words were tumbling out of my mouth rather incoherently.  I recovered within an 20 minutes of resting, treating it as a migraine.  I never told my doctor about it.  I found out later that it is usually a warning sign for a full stroke.  I had a real stroke in 2009 and when the CAT scan was done, they showed me where I had the TIA.


Feb 15, 2011 6:58PM
I had a few episodes such as this years ago.  It was found that I was having seizures due to low potassium.  It was easily fixed by taking potassium pills.  Haven't had any problems in about 12 years.
Feb 15, 2011 6:49PM
I had what was thought to be TIA 6 years ago in my mid 40s.  It affected me differently in that I had numbness and partial loss of motion on my left side for a few minutes.  I had my wife take me to the emergency room and as Nancy Snyderman said, many tests followed.  It's a very scary thing.  I hope she gets the same care I did, it was very re-assuring.
Feb 15, 2011 6:40PM
It is quiet obvious that she is having either a TIA, Stroke (Cerebrovascular Accident) or seizure manifested by the neurological symptoms shown on this video.  I am quiet astonished if this reporter was not been taken to the ED for the appropriate management including a non-contrast head CT to r/o an acute hemorrhage or infarction.  Having this being said, this increases her risk of developing an additional episode.  Therefore, it is a priority for her to be seen by a physician, most likely a neurologist, for her to be managed and educated about this.  This video clip is an obvious bird's eye view of what these symptoms look like.  
Feb 15, 2011 5:41PM

I wouldn't describe what happened as "classic stroke symptoms."  Other symptoms of stroke are more common.  What she experienced are possible stroke symptoms.  There is a difference.  I just don't want people to experience a stroke with symptoms different from what is seen on this video, and delay seeking medical attention as a result.  Furthermore, it isn't called a "stroke" unless the symptoms have persisted after 24-72 hours.


Anything that causes confusion could be responsible for what happened, even something like low blood sugar or dehydration causing orthostatic hypotension, fatigue, performance anxiety, ...


She should have gone to ER immediately for medical evaluation, and am happy nothing happened and that she saw her physician, thus starting the process of proper diagnosis and treatment.  Hopefully the paramedics checked her blood sugar - if not, the info cannot be replicated.  She should pursue medical work-up to completion.  I also agree with the TIA and partial seizure ideas, and that neurologic causes are tops on the list, but the differential diagnosis is broader than that.  Use of oral contraceptives, patent foramen ovale, AVM, tumor, smoking-related, ..., are all on the list.


I am approaching this from the Family Practice standpoint.  And I do concur with the physician interviewed.  I wish her well.


Feb 15, 2011 7:21PM
Feb 15, 2011 5:41PM

simple NEVER download an app immediately. always assume the programers are as poor as those you find on ms money.

check with your  your security software company after you get out of the initial message.

two minutes of caution is better than 10 hours of pain and down time

Feb 15, 2011 7:25PM
The same thing happens to me every time I try to talk to a beautiful women.
Feb 15, 2011 6:18PM
I have had one as well as TIA. She needs to get to the doctor like right away. even today and with in the first 48 hours they can give meds that will help her brain recover. its frightening to watch I sincerely hope she is OK.
Feb 15, 2011 8:08PM
I've had the same thing and it turned out to be  TIA....I was in the hospital for a week but I'm fine now... I have some damage but I'm alive.....take care of your bodies.....otherwise, bad health will surely follow......God Bless all :)
Feb 15, 2011 8:34PM
To the individuals who commented that "nothing is wrong" and "get over it":  This is a classic example of someone having a stroke.  It you notice, half of her lip seems to be paralyzed.  That's because one of the hemispheres of the brain is affected.  One side of the body will show some type of weakness during and after a stroke.  The person at the end of this video was actually correct.  She should have gone straight to the ER. 
Feb 15, 2011 10:15PM
Don't be an idiot.  She wasn't stuttering.  She was speaking normally and gibberish was coming out.  She was aware of it and struggled to regain her speech.  It isn't normal for that to happen to a person all of a sudden.  It needed to be checked out by a doctor.
Feb 15, 2011 10:04PM
Feb 15, 2011 10:45PM

BJSux -

Paramedics can recommend a course of action, but if the patient is capable of making a decision, she can decline further eval.  Due to HIPAA, we are not privy to the complete details, nor should we be.  Often, in the heat of the moment, patients say "I'm fine" and decline further intervention.  Either they are "fine," or they are "not fine" and are in denial or unaware.  Even if I assume the correct eval was done by the paramedics, I do not know their skill level, the extent of the neuro exam, or if they checked her blood sugar.  If her rhythm strip was normal and showed no arrhythmia, great, but proves nothing.  And while an arrhythmia like A. fib could put her at risk for flipping an embolus from the heart to the brain, lack of arrhythmia does not eliminate a dangerous cause.  Furthermore, even if all her symptoms were completely resolved within minutes and her paramedic eval was normal, which seems to be implied by the news story, the fact of the matter is that the episode occurred, is unusual, and warranted further eval and observation.  We do not play Russian roulette with patients' lives.  The doc interviewed on video would seem to agree with me.  It would be "standard of care."  And I of course hope this was nothing more than a moment of performance anxiety or nervousness.


My worst case scenarios: intracranial hemorrhage from an aneurysm/tumor/AVM (all of which could be silent until the moment of her episode, and might cause intermittent symptoms initially and be undetected on neuro exam), TIA due to thromboembolic embolus from cardiac arrhythmia (which could be undetected by paramedics if intermittent or they didn't do a rhythm strip) or paradoxical embolus from DVT (caused by birth control pills or hypercoagulable state) through a patent foramen ovale, partial seizure (either idiopathic or caused by aneurysm/tumor/AVM/TIA).  Less severe would be migraine, hypoglycemia, dehydration, fatigue, stress, etc.


I tried to link you to a nice article about Beau Biden and other young celebrities at abcnews dot go dot com, but this forum won't let me post the link.  It is a good read at a lay person's level (i.e. plain English, not med speak).

Feb 15, 2011 10:17PM
I wonder if anyone has considered how hard it will be for this girl to go back on the air.Even though she did nothing wrong, there has to be at least a bit of embarrasment from the video going viral. I'm not an expert, so maybe someone more knowledgable can tell me if post tramutic stress syndrome is likely in this case. It seems like if she can beat the neurological side of this the ptss could take much longer to deal with. Just a sad video you can see the fear and panic in her eyes. Best wishes Ms. Branson.
Feb 15, 2011 10:21PM
**** even if the paramedics found nothing and in fact if there was nothing to find, had they seen the video the prudent thing to do would have take her to the hospital and keep her for observation and tests. Paramedics are limited in their abilty to diagnose certain things.
Facebook itself is a scam from F to K....  Keep your individuality, life and privacy by refusing to use such sites. Those in control of your sheepful life use them to keep that All Seeing Eye on you.
Feb 15, 2011 9:38PM

BJSux -

Some of us ARE doctors here.  Others are patients who had TIAs or other neurologic or medical conditions causing similar symptoms.  We, and the doctor interviewed on the video know how we would approach evaluating a patient with these symptoms.  Best case scenario, nothing serious.  Worst case scenario, devastating outcome for the patient if prompt action is not taken.  While I generally don't like making armchair diagnoses if I didn't see and examine the patient in person, I do think it is important to correct misperceptions by the lay press or lay public, and to give general prudent advice for public health reasons.  Take advantage of our training and experience, and at least consider the possibility that our guess might be of more value than someone without our expertise.  Paramedic evaluation notwithstanding, it would have been prudent to go to ER for exam and diagnostic testing, perhaps also overnight admission.

Feb 16, 2011 2:30AM

Well, a neurologist I'm in contact with who saw the video states that her speech pattern contained neologisms and paraphasic errors, indicating a focal left temporal lobe lesion, most likely a TIA, less likely a seizure.

We shall see.

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