How to Steer Clear of Swine Flu Swindlers

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Swine flu is back in the news, and that means swindlers are looking to prey on the concerned. Any period of upheaval and concern offers a chance for scammers to capitalize on fear. Here are a few swine flu scams that are currently in circulation.

Swine Flu “Survival Kits”

Want a “Swine Flu Survival Guide” for only $19.95? These kits are being offered on various Web sites and some include things like cheap surgical masks, latex gloves and other basic items you can get yourself for less. Others offer spurious advice or information you can get free from the CDC. Some other kits never arrive – you order them and the most you’ll get is a case of identity theft (because you’ve given a swine flu swindler your credit card information).

The bottom line is that you do not need a special kit to survive swine flu. What you do need is common sense: Wash your hands, avoid contact with those who are sick and take care of yourself physically.

Swine Flu Vaccinations

When fears about swine flu first emerged earlier this year, swine flu swindlers attempted to sell a “vaccine,” reports the Better Business Bureau. At the time, there was no vaccine. Now, though, a swine flu vaccine is being tested and is expected to be available nationally by October. However, the scam hasn’t gone away. Beware of claims that you can obtain the vaccine through unofficial channels, or that you can participate in a study. Instead, check with local health clinics and state health agencies to find out where you can get access to the real vaccine, and when it will be available in your area.

Swine Flu Phishing Scams

Because the H1N1 virus has been in the news, swindlers know that people are interested in opening e-mails about the swine flu and receiving alerts. You might be asked to click on a link about swine flu that takes you to a phishing page that could ask for personal information. These scams try to obtain your personal information for purposes that are definitely not related to protecting the public from swine flu. (What’s a Phishing Scam and how does it work? Read this and you shall know!)

The Better Business Bureau suggests that you avoid Web sites that have the words “swine flu” in the domain name. Back in April and May, a number of site names with those words were registered, and more are expected now as awareness of swine flu gets another bump. Instead of going to some other, unknown site, stick with the CDC site for your updates, and avoid clicking on links or opening attachments in e-mails related to swine flu from unknown sources.

In the end, it’s about keeping your eyes peeled for problems. The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team offers these tips for avoiding falling prey to swine flu swindlers online and through e-mail:

  • Set up a spam filter in your email.
  • Treat email attachments—especially from unknown sources—with caution.
  • Do not open unsolicited email, especially from unknown senders.
  • Avoid following links in email messages.
  • Keep your antivirus and firewall software up to date.

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