Pensacola, Fla. (April 29, 2009) – Relying on reports from online security experts, your Better Business Bureau® is warning consumers to avoid fraudulent e-mails and Web sites trying to take advantage of the current swine flu outbreak.
“Scammers keep up with the news 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 Norman Wright, president and CEO of your BBB serving northwest Florida.
“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!”
So far, the e-mails have not contained malware but often link to online pharmacies.
Already, hundreds of Web sites with the term “swine flu” have been registered, just days following the announcement of the outbreak.
BBB warns consumers to be on the lookout for scams artists who may be preparing to use such Web sites in a variety of different online scams.
At least one Web site, www.noswineflu.com, is already selling a “Swine Flu Survival Guide” PDF for $19.95.
However, numerous agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov/swineflu/swineflu_you.htm) and the Florida Department of Health (www.doh.state.fl.us/bulletins.html) have information on protecting yourself from swine flu available free-of-charge.
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 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.
For additional information and advice you can trust, start with bbb.org.