updated 9/25/2010 2:46:11 AM ET 2010-09-25T06:46:11

SEATTLE, Sept. 25, 2010 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- ClearFee.com, a Canadian based accounting software firm, has identified a new occurrence of an ongoing email scam encouraging consumers to donate to a phony charity in support of healthy kids worldwide. The fresh air vending machine email runs along the same lines as previous related scam emails encouraging readers to donate to a charity supporting child health. The email appears to originate from a concerned community member or even a missionary recently returning from working overseas in Hong Kong. In the email the "concerned party" relates a story wherein they encountered heavily polluted areas in Hong Kong where children (and presumably adults as well) are forced to buy fresh air to breathe from a vending machine in order to remain healthy. The email claims that the healthy vending machines dispense a few breaths of fresh air to users in exchange for $2 Hong Kong, about the value of an American quarter dollar.

The scam email then goes on to request that readers visit a website in order to donate money to an organization that supports healthy children worldwide, although it doesn't say exactly how the charity benefits the supposedly fresh air vending machine dependent children in Hong Kong. Here is an excerpt from a version of the fresh air vending machine scam email:

"While we were there (Hong Kong), we definitely noticed how polluted some areas of the city were. It definitely can't be healthy for anyone to be exposed to those conditions on a regular basis. While we were visiting a neighborhood that is known as one of the worst in the city, one of the people in our group noticed a peculiar vending machine near a street corner. When they asked our Liang, our guide, what the machine was for he explained that it was to dispense fresh healthy air. He told us that the pollution is so bad in the area that people will pay to breathe from the vending machine's fresh air supply for a few minutes. We decided to try the machine for ourselves thinking it was a scam and found it to be absolutely true. After the fresh air vending machine had been explained to us we began to notice them more and more and saw many people stop to use them for a precious few fresh, healthy breaths. On one occasion a young child was begging for coins from people in our group. As soon as he had gathered enough money, we witnessed him go straight to a fresh air healthy vending machine and purchase a few moments of easy breathing. The child couldn't have been older than 8 years of age."

This email is not unlike several other scam emails that play on reader's sense of guilt and/or compassion for nameless children being exposed to horrendous, less than healthy conditions in faraway places. However, the healthy fresh air vending machines do not actually exist, and neither does the so called charitable organization that the email directs its victims to. In fact, the so called "Healthy Kids Charity" is a scam / phishing site where scam artists keep any and all money that is "donated" and also attempt to harvest personal information from well-intentioned visitors for the purposes of identity theft. Interestingly, the scam artists that designed the page seem to have drawn their inspiration for the fresh air vending machine scam from a spoof infomercial produced by The Clean Air Network.

ClearFee.com would like to remind consumers never to give to charities who send unsolicited emails to your inbox. In all likelihood the emails are from a scam artist rather than a legit charity. Users should avoid even clicking on links sent with these types of emails, even if they appear to be sent by friends. The safest option is to simply hit "delete." If consumers feel the need to give to a charity after reading an email such as the healthy fresh air vending machine letter they can do so by visiting a well-known charity directly through their website or by calling their donation hotline, keeping them well out of the reach of scam artists.

About ClearFee.com

ClearFee.com is an online application that provides invoicing, client time tracking and customer billing solutions to multiple industries. ClearFee.com simplifies billing and account receivables by allowing you to track invoices and the corresponding payments.

© Copyright 2012, GlobeNewswire, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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