Beware the Swine-Flu Scams

It's a virus about a virus: H1N1 fraudsters infect the Web

By Scott Budman
|  Friday, Oct 16, 2009  |  Updated 10:15 AM PDT
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Beware the Swine-Flu Scams

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Beware of swine-flu drugs you find online.

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The Twittersphere has swine-flu fever. We've seen medical blogs, mommy blogs, and entire Facebook communities pop up, all aimed at answering your questions and fears about the H1N1 strain.

So it's no surprise to learn that scammers are manufacturing viruses about the virus that has everyone talking.

MarkMonitor, a San Francisco-based firm, says it's been tracking these scams since they first started, and their findings are alarming:  Of the nearly 3,000 online pharmacies currently offering swine flu "cures," MarkMonitor says only four have been certified by the National Association Boards of Pharmacy, the governing body for US pharmacies.

Not scary enough for you?  How about this:  Those fraudulent dotcoms are pulling in, on average, 42,000 daily visitors per site.

And if you took what they're currently earning from unsuspecting victims and projected it across a year, they're set to take in $11 billion in annual revenue. That's a lot of attention and money paid to sources offering bogus information and cures.

With healthcare reform and swine-flu fears giving anxious parents a double whammy of concern, these scammers -- mostly offshore -- are taking advantage of our most basic fears: our health, and that of our children.

MarkMonitor executives, along with the FDA, suggest that you should at the very least beware of the "cures" you find online. These bogus drugs can be extremely dangerous to your health, they say. It's still best to talk to a doctor or pharmacist on the phone or in person.

That's frustrating advice if your doctor is telling you there aren't enough doses of vaccine to go around.  Going online for a swine-flu cure is an infectious idea, sure. But it will leave your body and your wallet worse off.

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