The crooks, thieves and swindlers wasted no time in setting up spam in order to steal stuff from your computer. The prize theft is to steal your passwords so that the bad buys can get into your banking accounts or other financial institutions. It did take a few days for the spammers to gear up, since the death of Michael Jackson took everyone by surprise. But once they did, the crooks are running at full steam.

According to an article over at the San Jose Mercury News, they state the following:

Spam is the most common way for fraudsters to find victims after these types of events. They can use a shotgun approach with a boilerplate message about Jackson, taking advantage of people’s interests in the topic to improve their batting average over their usual spam campaigns.

By enticing users with such messages and tricking them into clicking on e-mail attachments, scammers can easily infect victims’ computers and take command of them for more nefarious activities.

The spam about Jackson’s death gets more convincing every day.

One message promises a YouTube video showing the exclusive “last work of Michael Jackson.” Instead, victims get a malicious program that steals their passwords. Another promises to show the “latest unpublished photos” of Jackson if you click on a link — one that also tries to install a password-stealing program on your machine.

Others purport to be from legitimate news outlets and may contain accurate enough information to convince viewers they’re real enough to click on. Others promise access to secret songs.

The effects of specific spam campaigns, like the one surrounding Jackson’s death, are hard to quantify, though. Spam levels are already so high that there might not be a noticeable increase in overall spam levels, Harnett said. By some estimates spam accounts for more than 90 percent of all e-mail sent around the world, though the bulk of the messages get filtered out before ever reaching the user.

Celebrity deaths are a gold mine for criminals because lots of people go online looking for news. Google says the spike in searches for news stories about Jackson’s death was so sharp the company initially mistook it for an automated attack.

Naturally we all should be cautious of any unsolicited emails with promises that may sound too good to be true. For most of us, this is a no brainer. But we should warn those that we know that may fall for this scheme.

Comments welcome.