NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) — A new Internet scam looks legitimate but has the potential to unleash a Pandora’s box of viruses and spyware onto your computer.

John D’Arienzo of Williamsburg, Brooklyn recently received a heartbreaking email with the subject line “Passing Of Your Friend.”

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The email came from a sender claiming to be a funeral home D’Arienzo told CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez.

“It comes up Eubank Funeral Home, that they wanted me to contact them about someone that I knew that passed away,” he said.

The email had a seemingly legitimate letterhead and the sender offered prayers and condolences. The message invited John to attend a celebration of his friend’s life and prompted him to click on a link.

It turned out that the email was part of a scam that could have exposed D’Arienzo’s computer to viruses and spyware that could potentially reveal personal information like social security numbers and credit card information.

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The Federal Trade Commission recently sent out a scam alert warning consumers about the malicious email.

“What the scammers do is they send thousands, possibly millions of emails to people and hope to catch some that are actually experiencing a situation with a friend or relative where they’re concerned about their health,” FTC spokesman Nat Wood explained.

D’Arienzo said that both his wife and brother-in-law have received fake funeral notifications as well. He said that he might have fallen for the scam if he wasn’t a funeral director himself.

“People trust their funeral director or funeral service and that trust these people are breaching by taking advantage of an avenue that we’d never use,” he said.

The FTC and Better Business Bureau are urging consumers to delete the email if they receiver it and to avoid clicking on links unless they know the sender and what they are sending. They also advised internet users to keep security software updated and to make sure that browser security settings are high enough to detect unauthorized downloads.

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