Is Rick Astley Dead? Internet Hoaxes Have Fans Wondering

What they do know, however, is that the people behind the rumors are often just doing it for the attention, and not for monetary gain or even much more than the personal satisfaction of knowing that you sparked a national debate on an actor's well-being.

"Random people start these hoaxes; the Internet is a participatory medium," said Kaminsky. "It's one of the first mass medium that has such a participation element for people who want to be a part of the story this is the way to do it – by making things up."

"People just want to matter," said Kaminsky. "There's no money, there's no blog promotion, it's just kids doing stupid stuff."

Boese agrees, "These people are just pranksters being obnoxious."

This is the not the first time hoaxes have spiked after a noteworthy event. Boese recalls when, following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, people were publishing false reports of anthrax and bomb threats.

David Mikkelson, the founder of Snopes.com, Web site that is dedicated to revealing the truth behind urban legends and viral hoaxes, said that it's hard to explain why anyone would want to circulate fake reports of someone's death.

"It's kind of akin to ringing someone's doorbell and running away," said Mikkelson. "Why do people do it? It seems like you're getting away with something and you get to poke fun of someone too."

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