For Immediate Release
Michelle L. Corey, 314-645-3300
Chris Thetford, 314-645-3300
BBB Warns Consumers To Be Wary
As Swine Flu Scams Pop Up Online
St. Louis, Mo., April 29, 2009 – Consumers need to be skeptical of e-mails and websites promoting swine flu prevention products and tips, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
Within hours of the first media reports on the outbreak of swine flu (Influenza A virus subtype H1N1) in Mexico and other countries, spammers began pumping out e-mails, many of them linked to online pharmacies. More than 250 websites with the term “swine flu” were registered within days.
McAfee Avert Labs, an online security company, reported that the messages accounted for 2 percent of all spam sent in recent days. Some used subject lines such as, “Madonna caught swine flu,” or “Swine flu in Hollywood.”
“Scammers know that by using a hook from the day’s top headlines, they’ll be able to catch lots of fish,” said Michelle L. Corey, president and CEO of the BBB in St. Louis. “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.”
For example, the website www.noswineflu.com was selling a “Swine Flu Survival Guide” PDF for $19.95. Other sites promote masks, prevention tips and treatments, most of them of little value in fighting flu.
Free information on the virus, the outbreak and preventive measures is available at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, www.cdc.gov/swineflu
The BBB offers the following advice to avoid swine flu scams:
- Avoid opening e-mail from an unknown source. Do not click on links in the body of the e-mail or open any attachments. Instead, delete the e-mail. If you suspect that it is a scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission by forwarding the e-mail to email@example.com.
- Disregard 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 the anti-virus and anti-spyware programs on your computer are 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.
Before doing business with a company, check its Reliability Report with the BBB by calling 314-645-3300 or go to www.bbb.org
.About the BBB
The BBB is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. The BBB provides objective advice, free business Reliability Reports, charity wise giving reports, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Please visit www.bbb.org
for more information.