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Author JK Rowling this week warned fans of the likelihood of further scams after an offer to sell an e-book version of the next installment of the Harry Potter saga was exposed as a con. A site called www.harrybooks.info (since closed) touted a purported e-book version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which is released in July.

But the offer was bogus and designed simply to trick Potter fans in handing over credit card information. Rowling's copyright lawyer, Neil Blair, told Reuters: "They were asking for money and people's credit cards. This was a phishing scam."

The ruse, first reported by Potter fan site The Leaky Cauldron last month, has been nipped in the bud. It's unclear how many people were induced to hand over their credit card info. Rowling advises fans to be on their guard against further scams.

"You should NEVER trust any Harry Potter e-books offered for download from the internet or on P2P/file-trading networks. Setting aside the fact that these books are illegal (there are no authorised HP e-books to date), they may infect your computer with viruses, leave you vulnerable to the dangers of hacking and/or credit card fraud and may also contain content that has nothing to do with Harry Potter, to say the least," Rowling writes on her home page.

"I would bet the original manuscript of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince itself that this will not be the last attempt to con HP fans before the publication of book six on 16 July."

Indeed The Leaky Cauldron reports that an email from "Voldemort" circulating this week that promises fans who follow a number of steps will receive Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for free is likely another scam. "This is akin to those ads that offer you free iPods and other highly priced items, but first make you jump through a series of Web hoops and spend money before getting to the prize," it warns. ®

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