THIS IS A NEWS RELEASE FROM THE ALABAMA ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE.
(MONTGOMERY)-Attorney General Troy King and the Better Business Bureau are warning consumers about scam artists who are looking to prey on consumers' fears regarding the spread of swine flu. "Scam artists are constantly using news headlines to take advantage of victims," said Attorney General King. "For the past few months there have been many scams related to the latest stimulus package from Congress. Now, scam artists are moving on to the next item that has captured the public's attention - swine flu."
Consumers must be on the lookout for fraudulent emails and websites looking to take advantage of the public's heightened focus on the potential pandemic.
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.
Some of these emails appear to be phishing attempts. Phishing is a fraudulent contact, often by telephone or email, in an attempt to trick people into divulging personal information so that their identities can be stolen. "Under no circumstances should consumers give out their personal or financial information to someone who contacts them, for any purported reason. If you do not know and trust who you are dealing with, or if you did not initiate the contact to a known and trusted source, do not give out your valuable private information."
According to F-Secure Corp., 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. F-Secure also reports that one Web site is already selling a "Swine Flu Survival Guide" PDF for $19.95.
Some tips 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.