Rowan Atkinson is the latest celebrity to fall victim to a death hoax. The British comedian, famous for playing Mr. Bean on film and television, was reported dead on Thursday morning, the victim of a car crash. Daily Mail says that the initial reports came from an unverified source that seemingly had ties to Fox News, and included an image of Atkinson with the words: “RIP 1955-2018” at the bottom.
It has been confirmed that Atkinson is still alive, and that the report was simply an internet scam masquerading as a death hoax. This is not the first time that the comedian has had to deal with death hoaxes, nor the first time scammers have used said hoaxes as a means of linking to viruses.
Here’s what you need to know about Rowan Atkinson’s death hoax:
1. The Hoax Is Actually a Computer Virus Meant to Steal Data
The post also includes a video “play” icon, suggesting the link will play footage that pertain’s to Atkinson’s supposed death. According to Hoax Slayer, however, these links are untrue. The post is actually a scam that is meant to infect your computer with a virus. Once you click on the post you will be taken to a security message that tells you that your computer has been locked because it has become infected with a virus.
From there you will be directed to call a ‘support number’, which is actually the number of the scammer who will try to obtain your credit card information. Hoax Slayer also warns users that the scammer may try to get you to download software that will allow them to gain control over your computer.
2. Death Hoaxes Claiming That Atkinson Committed Suicide Appeared In 2013 & 2016
Atkinson has actually been the recipient of several death hoaxes throughout his career. The first was in 2013, when a message began circulating on Facebook that claimed the comedian had committed suicide. The message, which featured a photograph of Atkinson with the caption “1955-2013 Rest In Peace,”claimed to be breaking news taken from CNN, which was later proved to be untrue.
A second hoax involving Atkinson’s alleged suicide appeared in July 2016, when a social media post about the comedian went viral. This time, the media outlet credited with the story was Fox News, and the message came with a photo tribute that read “RIP 1995-2016 Will Miss You Mr Bean” and claimed to be a breaking story. It was later confirmed that Fox News had nothing to do with the report.
Hoax Slayer points to the discrepancy on the photo which states that Atkinson was born in 1995, and not 1955, as the biggest tipoff that the 2016 report was indeed a hoax.
3. A Death Hoax About Atkinson Dying In a Car Accident Appeared In 2017
The Atkinson death hoax returned on March 18th, 2017, when a fake account posing as FOX News tweeted out a link to the story. The tweet read: “FOX BREAKING NEWS: Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson) died at 58 after car accident. – March 18, 2017.” The tweet was subsequently shared and liked over 300,000 times.
Like the previous hoaxes, the site included a link to a video footage of Atkinson’s death, which redirected the user to a clickbait website. There was also a discrepancy in Atkinson’s age, as he was 62 at the time and the report states that he is only 58. Hoax Alert was the first to debunk the report, stating: “The scammers are making money by sometimes not showing the video or the share dialog when visitors click but instead redirecting them to pages full of deceptive ads and popups.”
4. Atkinson Sued a British Tabloid for Suggesting He Had Depression In 2004
In 2004, the UK tabloid Mail on Sunday claimed that Atkinson was suffering from severe depression, and that he had been seeking treatment at an American clinic. The article also suggested that Atkinson’s depression was brought on by the fear that he has become a “has been” in the industry, and was waning in popularity. Atkinson denied these claims outright, and derided the tabloid for “sensationalizing” the serious topic of depression.
He told The Guardian: “Although these ludicrous, hurtful and irresponsible allegations have been successfully refuted, their publication was indicative of a continuing sensationalizing and stigmatizing of the issue of mental health, and of the condition of depression in particular– from which I am fortunate enough never to have suffered.”
Atkinson has been involved with Sane, a charity dedicated fighting mental illness, since 1991. Marjorie Wallace, the chief executive of Sane, defended the comedian, and echoed his statement. “I think the problem comes when the media tries to mix celebrity and serious mental health. Then articles can be hurtful and unhelpful.”
Atkinson later accepted “substantial damages” from the publisher of Mail on Sunday and Daily Mail, who put out an article that speculated as to whether he had a mental breakdown.
5. Atkinson Is Expecting His Third Child & 1st With Girlfriend Louise Ford
Contrary to the death hoaxes that Atkinson has been hit with over the past few years, The Telegraph reports that he will soon be a father again. He and girlfriend Louise Ford announced that they would be having a child together in November 2017, and that both of them were “delighted” and “excited” by the news.
Atkinson has two other children, Lily Sastry Atkinson and Benjamin Atkinson from his previous marriage to Sunetra Sastry. He and Ford, who is 29 years his junior, have been dating for three years.
In March, the couple were seen attending Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 70th birthday party at London’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane. “Rowan and Louise are over the moon and can’t wait for their new arrival. It’s a very happy time for them both.”