Scammers are riding the wave of concern over the swine flu outbreak in their latest attempts to defraud unsuspecting consumers, the Better Business Bureau said.
“Scammers read newspapers, watch TV and surf the Internet and they know that by using a hook from the day’s top headlines, that they’ll be able to catch lots of fish,” said Jeannette Kopko, spokesperson for the BBB serving Dallas and Northeast Texas. "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.”
Scam artitsts jumped at the chance to spark their own swine flu spam epidemic as soon as the news of the virus began, according to McAffee Avert Labs, an online security company.
"Madonna caught swine flu!" and "Swine flu in Hollywood!" are among the e-mail subject lines attempting to lure readers to click on links that lead to online pharmacies, the security company said.
More than 250 Web sites with the term "swine flu" were registered within days of the outbreak, according to F-Secure Corp., another online security company.
Some of the e-mails and Web sites claim to offer offer vaccinations against swine flu when a vaccination does not even exist. One Web site, perhaps targeted to those who haven't mastered the Google search, is selling a "Swine Flu Survival Guide" PDF for $19.95.
The Better Business Bureau is offering some "swine flu spam" survival tips free of charge:
• 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
• 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.