Patrick Swayze and other celebrity scams—be on guard online

17 September 2009

SCAMwatch is urging consumers to be on guard online, even when searching celebrity news items. The latest celebrity scam exploits the death of Patrick Swayze. Within days of his passing, bogus news websites have appeared online. These websites alert visitors that their computer is infected and offer to sell them anti-virus software. Unfortunately, not only is the software fake but also computers may become infected by viruses that send personal details to the scammers.

Celebrities are increasingly being used by online scammers to target consumers. SCAMwatch recently warned about internet scams that lure consumers in by attaching themselves to public figures such as Pink, Jennifer Hawkins and Michael Jackson. These scams show that scammers are ruthless, exploiting consumers’ interests in prominent figures in creative new ways.

SCAMwatch urges consumers to be wary when using the internet. Whether it be searching the web, opening emails or media files, or purchasing products such as tickets online, you need to be on the lookout for potential scams. Err on the side of caution if you are not sure about the legitimacy or safety of a website, attachment or product.

SCAMwatch advises you to leave suspect sites, delete unsolicited emails and attachments without opening them, and be very careful when purchasing products online. If a website tells you that your computer is infected and then offers to sell you anti-virus software, ignore it. If you are seeking photos, videos, songs or updates about Patrick Swayze or any other celebrity, use websites that you know and trust.

Read the warning signs listed below to help you identify suspect website product offers:

Warning signs

  • A website approaches you offering to sell anti-virus products after ‘detecting’ your computer is infected without your knowledge.
  • The website may contain spelling mistakes, use poor grammar, not appear to load up correctly, or contain faulty links.
  • You may be pushed to provide personal information e.g. credit card details and be discouraged from seeking independent advice.
  • There might not be any legal information (copyright statements and terms of use, privacy policies etc.) contained on the page.
  • If your computer has been infected, it may be slow to respond. Other signs that your computer has been infected include new desktop icons, new wallpaper, unfamiliar pop-ups or your internet browser default homepage being redirected to another site.

Protect yourself

  • NEVER purchase a product online unless you can verify the seller’s legitimacy.
  • NEVER open attachments or click on links unless you can verify and trust the source/contents.
  • NEVER assume that a website warning you that your computer is infected is telling the truth – virus warnings are designed to grab your attention and make you purchase without thinking.
  • NEVER enter your personal, credit card or online account information or your mobile phone number on a website that you are not certain is genuine.
  • If a product appears to be affiliated with a well-known product, ask yourself why it is available for sale from a different company.
  • Research products – ask friends, conduct online searches including product forums, or read product-specific magazines.
  • If you are not sure about the safety of a purchase, consider other options – e.g. anti-virus software can be purchased in computer shops.
  • Avoid questionable websites – some may automatically download malicious software to your computer.
  • It is important to keep your computer protected with the latest anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and to use a good firewall – just make sure the products are authentic!
  • If you think your computer has been infected, you may need to have the computer checked.

Report

If you think you have been targeted by a scammer, visit the report a scam page on SCAMwatch or report the matter to the ACCC's Infocentre on 1300 302 502.

More information

Explore SCAMwatch to find out more about spyware and key-loggers scams and learn how you can protect yourself against scammers.

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