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Cybercrooks exploit interest in Harry Potter ebook site

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Malware-slingers are tapping into the buzz around a new Harry Potter site to mount a variety of scams designed to either defraud, infect or otherwise con would-be victims.

Pottermore, currently in beta, has been set up to sell ebooks of the Harry Potter novels, along with additional content such as background details and settings. Fans of the JK Rowling series are not so patiently waiting for the site to become generally available in early October.

In the meantime, this anxiousness makes them more than suitable targets for scammers. Cyber-tricksters are offering to pre-register users as well as buying or selling accounts via eBay, net security firm GFI Software warns. Supposed account are on offer at around $100 a pop.

The official Pottermore blog strongly advises against buying accounts on eBay, or handing over personal information to supposed pre-registration services. The transfer of accounts is prohibited under the terms and conditions of the site. "We have the right to terminate any Pottermore accounts that are sold online," it said.

In addition, scammers are punting supposed account access as a "download" via YouTube. Unsurprisingly, gullible would-be punters are asked to fill in a survey before they are allowed to get their hands of the undoubtedly non-existent goodies. At best these surveys, similar to types that have become endemic on Facebook over recent months, are a waste of time that only serve to enrich the affiliates of unscrupulous marketing firms. At worst victims will sign themselves up for expensive premium rate services of dubious value, such as daily horoscopes. Even if it doesn't come to that, marks will be induced to hand over personal information that's likely to be abused in follow-up scams.

The download itself might easily turn out to be malware, GFI researcher Chris Boyd warns.

Finally, interest in the Pottermore site is getting abused as part of a search engine poisoning scam designed to trick Potter fans into scareware portals that run bogus scans of surfers' PCs in an effort to fool them into buying fake anti-virus software.

A full write-up of these various scams, complete with screenshots, can be found in a blog post by Boyd here. ®

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