According to a report published today more than a quarter of internet users have bought software through spam emails and in the UK 1 in 5 have bought software after reading junk mail.
The six country, 6,000 respondent survey that asked users about their attitudes towards unsolicited emails revealed that 37% of people are concerned that spammers will steal personal information and 40% of people feel that spam is harmful to overall online security.
Yet even after acknowledging these threats a further 24 per cent of users have bought clothes or jewellery.
The Business Software Alliance (BSA) warned that people should "stay alert".
"Many online consumers don't consider the true motives of spammers. Organised crime rings use spam to gain access to personal information," said BSA spokesperson, Mike Newton.
"By selling software that appears to be legitimate, spammers are hiding spyware without consumers' knowledge. Once the software is installed, information that is given over the internet can be obtained and abused," Newton added.
BSA offer the following tips to help consumers and businesses recognise software spam scams:
1.Recognize spam! Indicators that an email is spam include senders whose name you don't recognize, typos and misspellings in the subject line, and prices too good to be true.
2.Use a spam filter. Options can be found via a simple web search. Or, if you receive commercial spam at your work email address, ask the person in charge of computer systems what filtering options are available or in use.
3.Don't reply. Even if the spam email instructs you to reply if you want to “unsubscribe,” it could be a trap. You may only verify that your address is active.
4.Don't post. Avoid posting your email address on public sites where spammers can find it.
5.Check out the dealer. If the online dealer seeking to sell you software isn't listed on that software manufacturer's website, then beware.
6.Do your homework. Look for a feedback section on the site and look for comments on the seller based on previous transactions.
7.Get the seller's address. If you can't find a physical address, then be suspicious.
8.Keep receipts. Print a copy of your order number and sales confirmation, and keep them.
9.Steer clear of compilations and back-ups. Compilations of software titles from different manufacturers, or “backup” copies, are a clear indication that the software is not legitimate.
10.Report piracy. Buyers suspecting counterfeit software and and/or fraud should contact BSA at www.bsa.org/uk/report