Two policemen patrol near the main stadium at the Olympic Park as visitors arrive before the last rehearsal of the opening ceremony in London on July 25, 2012, two days before the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games. (image credit Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty)
McLean, VA (written by Nick Foley/USA Today) -- Spammers are feeling the Olympic spirit, too.
Banking on consumer frenzy building for the London Olympics, scammers are firing off a blitz of bogus Olympics-themed e-mail aimed at stealing your money and information. The problem has been so pervasive that London Games organizers warn on its website that consumers should be on the lookout for scams.
"As Olympic fever grows, people will be looking for ways to get in on the action, find memorabilia and perhaps, last-minute tickets to the Olympics," Warren Clark, Better Business Bureau president, said in a statement. "But consumers need to be alert and ensure they're dealing with legitimate, authorized partners of the Olympics to avoid being scammed."
Organizers of the Summer Games have recorded 124 different scams so far, and say the most common spam includes e-mail to consumers alerting them that they've won an "Olympic lottery," or offering them a chance to sign up for temporary jobs during the Games. Many e-mail ploys use the names of large corporations, such as Coca-Cola, Nokia and Ford Motor, to appear legitimate and trick users. Others have sent spam posing as the London Olympics organizers.
Scammers have also sent phony e-mail to companies to extract payment for Olympics-related items.
Karen McDowell, an information security analyst for the University of Virginia, says spammers and hackers may seek other ways to take advantage of the Olympics' popularity. For example, they may plant malicious links and viruses in Olympics-themed photos that appear in search engine results.
Odd requests seeking personal information may also pop up as text messages, she says.
McDowell advises consumers to avoid clicking on links directly and urges people to type a company's name into a search engine in order to get to its official website.
Olympics officials say consumers should pay for items only on secure sites that have an authorized icon that resembles a "padlock." The Games' main website - London2012.com - also lists 70 websites fraudulently claiming to sell event tickets. Ticket purchasers can verify if a ticket vendor website is legitimate by typing in the vendor's Web address on a "ticket checker" at London2012.com.
The problem of bogus e-mails and fraudulent sites will likely escalate as the Games kick into high gear. "It'll get worse," McDowell says. "It'll definitely get worse."
Some things to watch for:
•Links in e-mails. If you are interested in an e-mail but unfamiliar with the source, verify it first, McDowell says.
•Searched photos. Don't click on photos found through a search. Instead, go to www.olympic.org.
•Text messages. Spammers can also acquire your information through SMS text messages. Don't respond to odd requests sent to your phone.