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Swine flu fever breeds spam messages

Spammers are cashing in on fears over swine flu

Screenshot of a spam filter button

Spam filters ensure junk email is sent to the junk folder

Malicious computer scams are piggy-backing on the deadly swine flu outbreak to make a quick profit and infect systems around the world, according to experts.

McAfee Avert Labs says it has seen a spike in the number of spam emails concerning swine flu. McAfee said it had ‘uncovered a spike in new spam scams piggy-backing on the swine flu scare in an attempt to peddle pharmaceuticals’ and added that celebrity names, such as Madonna and Salma Hayek, were being used to attract users’ attention.

Principle security analyst Greg Day said it was a ‘sad, everyday reality’ and those behind the scam were playing on people’s fears to try to sell the medications.

Mr Day urged people to avoid the emails and said it was unlikely anyone would receive what they ordered.

‘If you’re lucky, you’ll get nothing,’ he said. ‘If not, then you’ll be sent something, but it won’t be what you’re expecting.’

He also warned anyone receiving emails not to click a link or visit a website for more information.

‘By doing that, you’re self-inflicting with some malware as they’re trying to get access to your system,’ he said.

He added that once a system was compromised, the amount of damage done was limited only by the malicious imaginations of those sending the emails.

Users were warned to be wary of emails with the subjects ‘Madonna caught swine flu!’, ‘Salma Hayek caught swine flu!’ and ‘Swine flu in Hollywood!’, among others.

If you’ve spotted a scam, find out how to report it with our guide.

© 2009 The Press Association

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