Thousands of people have been sent an upsetting hoax email telling them they have cancer.
The email appears to be from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), and carries the subject line: ‘Important blood analysis result.’
It looks like it comes from an official Nice email address and tells the recipient that their white blood cell count was found to be low following a recent blood test. It advises that they should visit their GP immediately as cancer is suspected.
Nice has been bombarded with phone calls following the hoax, and says that people who called them having recently had blood tests were particularly alarmed.
The email – with a number of grammatical errors – reads: “We have been sent a sample of your blood analysis for further research. During the complete blood count (CBC) we have revealed the 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.”
Sir Andrew Dillon, Nice chief executive, 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 advises those who have received the email to delete it without opening it, and not to click on any links it may contain as they 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 yesterday suggests it could have been sent to thousands.
Nice has taken to its Twitter account to reassure concerned recipients that the emails, which it claims are coming from India and Turkey, are a hoax.
It assured people that the spam attack was not caused by hacking, as the organisation does not hold patient data.