Spammers resort to scare tactics

Spammers are switching from the hard sell to scaring the wits out of unsuspecting people, according to new research.

Emails exploit fears over personal and family safety in order to sell the spammers' wares. The emails often arrive in inboxes with subject lines such as "Protect your child from sex offenders! Download now!" and "You can't see it, but it can see you".

According to the Spam Index report by email security company Clearswift, spam is moving away from pushing drugs and loans to security products often accompanied by alarmist messages.

"Historically, spammers have generally tried to lure us in under the false pretense that they are trying to help, offering anti-depressants, enhancement pills, and cheap loans," said Alyn Hockey, director of research at Clearswift.

"This shift toward a very calculated attempt to frighten consumers into making purchases is very well timed. There is something ironic in spammers offering users security products when unsolicited email is often used in the proliferation of viruses, phishing scams and spyware - three of the most popular security threats."

The report also found that pornographic email has shrunk to 3.6 percent of all emails, while financial spam and suspect healthcare offers still top the spam charts, making up 36 percent and 40 percent of all unsolicited emails respectively.

The bizarre dog products that hit inboxes in May have all but disappeared, save the occasional offer for ridding carpets of pet hair. Fake software spam is also on the rise (31 percent of all product spam). Phishing emails purporting to be from PayPal are becoming more popular, making up a sizeable proportion of scams (1.9 percent).

Earlier this month SC reported phishing attacks were still on the rise. But viruses and malware were on the decline through July.

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