POTENTIALLY hundreds of thousands of people received an email attempting to trick them into downloading a virus to their PCs after cyber scammers targeted the Bournemouth entertainment company BH Live.

The emails, which were sent out by malicious scammers, appear to be from BH Live but confirm the purchase of tickets to a performance of Peter Pan at the Pavilion are a virus and should not be opened.

The email is titled Confirmation of Order and encourages the recipient to click an attachment to print their tickets, which have been charged at £145.

But clicking the attachment downloads a zip file containing a virus.

BH Live, which operates the Bournemouth International Centre and the BIC, has today confirmed initial investigations show at least tens of thousands of emails were sent but say the actual figure could be much higher. 

It is now thought the emails have stopped being sent to new recipients.

Matt Goode, head of marketing and communications at BH Live, said: “We know at least tens of thousands of emails were sent out but we don’t know the exact number at this time. It’s a very significant amount as far as we are concerned.

“We are continuing to investigate the matter because we want to understand the full scale of it.”

Mr Goode said the matter has been passed on to the police and investigations are ongoing.

Customers can be reassured that there is no evidence to suggest any data or systems breach has taken place, he added. 

People from as far away as Scotland, London, Lancashire and even South Africa have been sent an email confirming they have bought tickets to see Peter Pan - ranging from nine seats to 27 seats – but none of them had bought tickets in the first place.

BHLive and the BIC have been flooded with phone calls as the email includes their premium rate box office number. They have now set up a dedicated phone line at 01202 456400.

Paul Currey from London said: “I received an email this morning saying I have bought some tickets to see Peter Pan at the Bournemouth International Centre.

“It said I had bought nine tickets. I haven’t bought any.”

Mr Currey, a publicist at Virgin Trains, said he had been unable to contact anyone at the Box Office after receiving the email.

He said:  “I tried to phone them at quarter to nine but they said to phone back at 9am when they opened.

“I phoned back at 9am but I can’t get thought. It said their call system had been inundated with calls.

Ann Khambatta from Poole said she regular buys tickets for shows at the BIC.

The 52-year-old said the email looked identical to the confirmation emails normally sent out by BHLive.

“It looks exactly the same. The only difference is the credit card details are different,” she said.

Mrs Khambatta said when she called the ticket office she was told by a member of staff they had received thousands of calls about the issue.

Anti-virus blogs online say computer security firms are receiving hundreds of examples of the email. And hundreds of people are posting messages on Twitter asking why they have recieved one. The emails are still being sent. 

But experts say the emails are not coming from BH Live's system but from computers as far afield as Korea and Vietnam. It is unclear why the hackers have chosen BHLive as the front for their scam. 

Martijn Grooten, editor at Virusbtn, advised anyone who has received the email to delete it and run an anti-virus scan on their computer.

“It is obviously a scam and it looks fairly convincing,” the computer security expert said. “When you click on the attachment, which looks like a PDF, if downloads Malware onto your computer.

“This type of scam is really common. It’s nothing to do with BHLive. They have obviously used their email address but BHLive is not involved, I’m certain about that.”

Matt Goode, BHlive head of Marketing and communication said they were looking into the issue but that the emails had not come from BH Live itself.

In a statement, BH Live said yesterday: "Approximately 7.30 this morning BH Live started to receive high-volumes of calls from members of the public in connection with an email purporting to come from BH Live Tickets. The email contains booking information relating to a performance of Peter Pan and contained an attachment(s) and hyperlinks.

"The emails appear to be official however they are not genuine and do not originate from BH Live. We advice the public to delete these emails and not to open any attachments or click any of the links contained within the email.

"BH Live’s Information Security teams together with information technology professionals and suppliers have investigated the matter have found no evidence to support any data or systems breach but have taken a number of precautionary measures to ensure our customers data, systems and networks continue to be protected.

"Early indications show that emails was sent from known SPAM IP addresses. Anyone receiving an email from BH Live Tickets for a showing that they have not booked is advised to delete the email and to ensure that they do not open attachments or click any links.

"As a general recommendation (we) recommend that you ensure that you are running anti-virus software and that you update the software at your earliest convenience.

"BH Live continues to monitor the situation and is posting updates via websites and social media channels. A dedicated phone line has been set up for concerned members of the public to talk to BH Live on 01202 456400."

Many users are reporting the email includes the last four numbers of their real credit card, making the scam even more convincing.