The message in the spam reads: ''Last night, while in his Neverland Ranch, Michael Jackson has made a suicidal attempt... They suggest this attempt follows the last claim was made against the king of pop. 46 years old Michael has left pre-suicid note which describes and interpretes some of his sins.''
If users click on a link in the email, they are taken to a Web site that secretly downloads malicious code onto their machine, according to analysts from Sophos, Inc., an anti-virus and anti-spam company with U.S. headquarters in Lynnfield, Mass.
The scam is taking advantage of the intense media coverage surrounding the self-described King of Pop and his current trial on child molestation charges.
''If you click on the link, the Web site displays a message saying it is too busy, which may not surprise people who think it might contain genuine breaking news about Michael Jackson,'' says Carole Theriault, a security consultant at Sophos. ''However, this is a diversionary tactic, because behind the scenes the Web site is downloading malware onto the user's computer without their knowledge.''
According to Sophos analysts, the downloaded code then downloads a Trojan horse -- Troj/Borobt-Gen.
This is not the first attempt by spammers and virus writers to take advantage of Jackson's fame and notoriety. Last October, messages were posted on the Internet claiming incriminating home videos belonging to Jackson had been discovered, but clicking on the link infected Web surfers with the Hackarmy Trojan horse, reports Sophos.
''The sick minds behind viruses and other malware often exploit celebrity names and news stories in an attempt to infect as many people as possible,'' says Theriault. ''All computer users should be very careful about clicking on Web links in unsolicited email or launching unknown attachments.''