Swine Flu Swindlers

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The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to be on the lookout for fraudulent swine flu e-mails and Web sites. The BBB says scammers are trying to take advantage of the public's fear of the swine flu.

The BBB says Scammers read newspapers, watch TV and surf the Internet in order to capitalize on the day’s top headlines. Right now it’s Swine Flu.

"This is a hot topic for everybody, including scam artists. They love this kind of thing," said Better Business Bureau spokesperson Katie Carrol. The consumer protection group reports that over reaction can translate to big business for crooks, or anyone playing on an uneasy public.

According to McAfee Avert Labs, an online security company, spammers began sending e-mails as soon as the first accounts of Swine Flu hit the news. The messages include subject lines such as, “Madonna caught Swine Flu!” and “Swine Flu in Hollywood!” McAfee reports that the e-mails do not contain malware, but often link to online pharmacies.

The BBB is also warning Web surfers about misleading Web sites. One in particular, www.noswineflu.com. It offers a Swine Flu prevention guide.

Buyers get a list of specific items to purchase including six specific Chinese herbs most effective in curing flu-like symptoms, as well as helpful links to government web sites.

The whole kit comes at a price tag of $19.95.

Carrol thinks scammers are ready to launch their attack.

"I think within a few days you'll see spam e-mails at least," she said.

BBB offers the following advice to avoid Swine Flu scams:

•Avoid opening e-mails from unknown sources and don’t 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, or by clicking on the link below.

•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, or by clicking on the link below.

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