BBB Warns Against Swine Flu Scams: Scammers are creating their own epidemic of spam e-mails

  
     
April 29, 2009

Relying on reports from online security experts, Better Business Bureau is warning consumers 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 that by using a hook from the day’s top headlines, today’s news story can become tomorrow’s scam,” says Rick Brinkley, President/CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Oklahoma. “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 two percent of all spam messages. The messages include such subject lines as, “Madonna caught swine flu!” and “Swine flu in Hollywood!” The company reports that the e-mails do not contain malware but often link to online pharmacies. Other spam emails do download malware onto the user’s computer. Malware is is software designed to infiltrate and/or damage a computer system without the owner's permission.

According to another online security company, more than 250 Web sites with the term “swine flu” have been registered within the first few days following the announcement of the outbreak and predict that the scams artists are preparing to use such Web sites in a variety of different online scams. www.noswineflu.com is a website that is already selling a “Swine Flu Survival Guide” PDF for $19.95.

BBB offers the following advice to avoid swine flu scams:

  • Avoid opening e-mail from an unknown source and do not click on any links in the body of the e-mail or open any attachments. Instead, delete the e-mail or report it to the Federal Trade Commission by forwarding the e-mail to spam@uce.gov.

  • Don’t believe online offers for vaccinations against swine flu because a vaccine does not exist. For more information on swine flu and updates on progress in fighting the outbreak, go to www.cdc.gov/swineflu

Make sure your anti-virus and anti-spyware software is 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 www.ic3.gov.