Swine Flu Not Immune to Scammers

swine-flu-image-1It is an unfortunate reality that, regardless of the situation, someone will try to take advantage of it – and other people, too.

The Connecticut Better Business Bureau recently posted a warning on their web site advising consumers to be on the lookout for fraudulent e-mails and web sites trying to take advantage of the current swine flu outbreak. In the warning, Connecticut Better Business Bureau President Paulette Scarpetti says scammers are using news headlines and fear in an effort to fool the public.

“Everybody is watching the swine flu epidemic and the chance of a pandemic, including criminals, who know how to turn fear into opportunity,” she stated.

According to online security company McAfee Avert Labs, spammers began pumping out e-mails as soon as the first accounts of swine flu were 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. According to one estimate, more than 250 web sites with the term “swine flu” were registered within the first few days following the announcement of the outbreak, and it has been predicted  that the fraudsters are preparing to use such web sites in a variety of different online frauds. At least one web site is reportedly offering a “Swine Flu Survival Guide” in PDF format for $19.95, while another site has a similar guide for sale at only 7 dollars. Another scam involves Rebuildermedical.com, which is offering a “Silver-Cure Swine Flu Protection Pack” for $199. The FDA says this so-called “cure” is nothing more than shampoo, lotion, conditioner and soap that supposedly deposits traces of silver into the body. They also say that no silver-based products have been approved for the prevention or treatment of the H1N1 virus. [Author’s note: As of this writing, the Rebuildermedical.com web site has removed the Swine Flu Protection Pack and now states on their home page that  “Rebuilder Medical does not sell flu products”.]

Legitimate information on swine flu and updates on progress in fighting the outbreak is available free of charge at the CDC’s swine flu information page.

The Connecticut BBB offers the following advice to avoid swine flu scams:

-Don’t believe online offers for vaccinations against swine flu because a vaccine does not exist, although Protein Sciences, a Meriden, Connecticut-based company, says they can have one developed within 6 weeks.

-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.

-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’s web site.

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