BBB Warns Against Swine Flu Scams: Scammers Are Creating Their Own Epidemic Of Spam E-mails

April 29, 2009

DAYTON, OHIO, April 29, 2009 - Relying on reports from online security experts, your Better Business Bureau is warning you to be on the lookout for fraudulent e-mails and Web sites trying to take advantage of the current swine flu outbreak.

"Scammers read newspapers, watch TV and surf the Internet and they know by using hooks from top headlines, they’ll be able to catch lots of fish," said John North, BBB president/CEO. "Right now, issues associated with swine flu and a potential pandemic are of global interest and that means scammers have a very large pond to go phishing in."

According to McAfee Avert Labs, an online security company, spammers began pumping out e-mails as soon as the first accounts of swine flu were being reported in the news, accounting for 2 percent of all spam messages. The messages include such subject lines as, "Madonna caught swine flu!" and "Swine flu in Hollywood!" The company reports the e-mails don’t contain malware, but may link to online pharmacies.

Several Web sites with the term "swine flu" have been registered within the first few days following the outbreak announcement and scam artists have begun using them in a variety of different online scams. One Web site, is already selling a "Swine Flu Survival Guide" PDF for $19.95.

Your BBB offers the following advice to avoid swine flu scams:

  • Avoid opening e-mail from an unknown source and don’t click on any links in the body of e-mails or open any attachments. Instead, delete the e-mail or report it to the Federal Trade Commission by forwarding it to
  • Don’t believe online offers for vaccinations against swine flu because a vaccine doesn’t exist. For more information on swine flu and updates on progress in fighting the outbreak, go to
  • Make sure your anti-virus and anti-spyware software are up to date and all operating system security patches have been installed. If your computer becomes infected as the result of a spam e-mail about swine flu, you can report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at

Contact your BBB for more information on scams. Visit or call (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301.

About Your BBB

Your BBB is an unbiased nonprofit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB Accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. Your BBB provides objective advice, free business BBB Reliability ReportsTM and charity BBB Wise Giving ReportsTM and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, your BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses when there is difference in viewpoints. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, 125 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring more than three million local and national businesses and charities. Please visit for more information about your BBB.