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Warning issued over H1N1 flu scams

Relying on reports from online security experts, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Minnesota and North Dakota is warning consumers to be on the lookout for fraudulent e-mails and Web sites trying to take advantage of the current swine flu H1N1 outbreak.

"Scammers read newspapers, watch TV and surf the Internet and they know that by using a hook from the day's top headlines, that they'll be able to catch lots of fish," said Barb Grieman, interim president of the BBB. "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."

According to McAfee Avert Labs, an online security company, spammers began pumping out e-mails as soon as the first accounts of the H1N1 flu were being reported in the news, accounting for 2 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.

BBB offers the following advice to avoid H1N1 flu scams:

n 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

n Don't believe online offers for vaccinations against H1N1 flu because a vaccine does not exist. For more information on H1N1 flu and updates on progress in fighting the outbreak, go to

n 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 H1N1 flu, you can report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at