Thousands of people have been sent a distressing hoax email telling them they have cancer, a health watchdog has warned, Daily Mail reports.
The message appears to be from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), and carries the subject line: ‘Important blood analysis result.’
Seeming to come from an official Nice email address, it advises the recipient that their white blood cell count was found to be low after a recent blood test, and that they should visit their GP immediately as cancer is suspected.
Nice said it has been bombarded with phone calls following the hoax, and that those who have had blood tests recently have been particularly alarmed.
The email says, “We have been sent a sample of your blood analysis for further research. During the complete blood count (CBC) we have revealed that white blood cells is very low, and unfortunately we have a suspicion of a cancer. We suggest you to print out your CBC test results and interpretations in attachment below and visit your family doctor as soon as possible.”
Nice CEO Sir Andrew Dillon, said, “A spam email purporting to come from NICE is being sent to members of the public regarding cancer test results. This email is likely to cause distress to recipients since it advises that “test results” indicate they may have cancer. This malicious email is not from Nice and we are currently investigating its origin. We take this matter very seriously and have reported it to the police.”
Nice is advising people who have received the email to delete it without opening it, and not to click on any links as it may contain a computer virus.
A spokesman said it was not clear exactly how many people have been affected, but the high number of calls to the organisation on Thursday suggests it could have been sent to thousands.
Michelle Kelly, 30, received the email yesterday morning at work.
The call centre manager, who works in Liverpool, was worried by the message, particularly as she had blood tests for a kidney problem a few weeks ago and has a history of cancer in her family. She said, “I’m used to getting spam but when I saw that email, because I’ve had blood tests done recently, your heart sinks. I did think it could be spam as it had a zip file attached and I know not to open spam emails, but there was a chart saying that my white blood cell count was low and it was from a nice.org.uk email address. I don’t know what offends me more – if I received that news via email or that someone is that malicious and they want to get a virus on to my computer that much that they would do something like this.” Distressed, she called her boyfriend Chris Stebbings, an IT specialist, to tell him about the email.
Stebbings, 30, from Newcastle, said, “Michelle called me straight away and was in a bit of a state – as you would be. We’re quite savvy when it comes to things like this and know what a spam email looks like, but you see the word cancer and you don’t think anyone would do that.”
Vicky Townshend, 60, also received the spam email on Thursday morning. The self-employed secretary from Lewes, East Sussex, said, “It was very unpleasant but I did think it was spam. It had grammatical errors and a zip file attached.”
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