Bird flu fears in ANZ exploited by spammers

Spammers are exploiting fears of a bird flu epidemic in Australia and New Zealand by offering stock market tips for companies that could make money from an epidemic and selling bogus flu medicine.Anti-virus firm Sophos reported on Wednesday that the company's spam filters in Australia and New Zealand are picking up an increasing volume of spam offering investment advice about companies that have apparently created products that protect against bird flu and SARS.

Spammers are exploiting fears of a bird flu epidemic in Australia and New Zealand by offering stock market tips for companies that could make money from an epidemic and selling bogus flu medicine.

Anti-virus firm Sophos reported on Wednesday that the company's spam filters in Australia and New Zealand are picking up an increasing volume of spam offering investment advice about companies that have apparently created products that protect against bird flu and SARS.

Paul Ducklin, head of technology at Sophos Asia Pacific, said the spammers are most likely buying stock in a company before attempting to "pump up" its stock price enough to make a decent profit.

"They create realistic-looking short term 'investment advice' in the hope of pumping a stock enough to offload their own shares at a profit. The increasing quantity and sophistication of pump-and-dump campaigns suggests that there is plenty of money to be made. Of course, the companies which were talked up, and their legitimate investors, are left to bear the after-effects of the stock dump," said Ducklin in a statement.

The spammers are also offering to sell doses of Tamiflu, which is a drug believed to protect humans from the virus. According to Sophos, Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche, which produces Tamiflu, said that any Internet sales of the drug are bogus.

Sophos's Ducklin has some simple advice for people receiving these e-mails: "Don't try; don't buy; don't reply".