On Dec. 1, 2022, we looked into YouTube videos and Facebook posts that were being shared in late November that claimed "America's Got Talent" television judge Simon Cowell had died. One YouTube video showed a picture of Cowell on an easel next to an open casket, with the title, "10 minutes ago we announce very sad news about Simon Cowell, he has been confirmed as..." However, Cowell was not dead, nor did the video divulge any information about him dying.
We found no credible reporting on any entertainment news websites that mentioned he had died. This was a death hoax, and a potentially dangerous one at that.
Note: The reality of the thumbnail picture for this video was that it showed former U.S. President Bill Clinton paying respects at a funeral for baseball legend Hank Aaron.
This wasn't the first time that we have debunked claims about Cowell. In 2015, we published a fact check about a rumor that falsely claimed a video showed a "Britain's Got Talent" contestant shooting himself. We also rated as "True" the fact that Natalie Holt, a music composer for the Disney+ show "Loki," once interrupted a performance on "Britain's Got Talent" to throw eggs at Cowell.
As for the death hoax, some of the links shared in Facebook posts went to strange websites that may have been aiming to get users to install dangerous malware.
Just as we reported about a previous death hoax involving film actor Bruce Willis, some of the websites that pushed the false rumor about Cowell displayed a pop-up that asked users to install what was said to be "Adobe Flash Player 7," even though Flash was discontinued in 2020. This likely was an attempt to install malware, not Flash. We also saw pop-ups that misleadingly claimed to offer an update for the Opera GX web browser.
We visited IPQualityScore.com's malicious URL scanner to see just how dangerous these links could be. The scanner rated the links as an 85 out of 100. The higher the score, the more dangerous they were believed to be. The scanner said that it found the links to potentially be "very risky."
With these kinds of death hoaxes, we advise that readers proceed with caution before believing in them, or sharing them. If a purported death announcement on social media mentions "very sad news" or a "tearful farewell" and shows a strange picture next to a casket, it might be a hoax.