Beware Michael Jackson Internet Scams

July 6, 2009

Since the day Michael Jackson died, the public’s thirst for Michael Jackson news has been increasingly exploited by Internet hackers intent primarily on identity theft. Sophos, a highly regarded computer security company, detected the first scam — which was an email promising readers a “breaking news video” — on the same day that the “King of Pop” died. Readers were sent to a bogus Web site.

Michael Jackson on His 1996 HIStory TourSophos warns in particular against one Internet virus that arrives in an email with a “Remembering Michael Jackson” subject line. Supposedly sent by sarah (at sign), the email promises that a zipped file attachment contains “secret” pictures and unreleased songs by Jackson. If the email is opened, a worm infects the user’s computer and spreads to the user’s email contacts. (Sermon here: As usual, don’t open email attachments and stop sending email jokes, pictures, etc. to everyone in your email address book. Many people won’t tell you this, but it’s not appreciated, it wastes bandwidth and it exposes your friends’ email addresses to complete strangers.) Similar emails offer supposed videos of Michael Jackson. If there’s not an attachment containing a worm or a virus, there’s a clickable link in the suspect email which goes to a rogue website that either installs malware or tries to collects personal information for identity theft purposes.

Consider also the purported source of email you receive. One making the rounds in Great Britain claims to be from Barry Gordy, founder of the Motown Record Corp., which discovered the Jackson 5. The email offers a chance to win free Michael Jackson CDs. But think about it. Why would Barry Gordy be taking the time to email you, a complete stranger, particularly in the immediate aftermath of Michael Jackson’s death?

To a lesser extent, similar scam emails are circulating regarding the death of Charlie’s Angel star Farrah Fawcett. Scammers and spammers are quick to seize on current events of interest, such as the swine flu outbreak and the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean which killed thousands. All together now: “There is no such thing as a free lunch. I am not receiving unseen Michael Jackson videos or photos and I’m not going to be listening to unreleased Michael Jackson songs, nor will I be receiving free CDs. I’m just not that. . . “special.”

Read more Michael Jackson news.

Photo credit: Phil Walter / Getty Images

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