Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is working its magic at the box office, but fans should not let the promise of a free online peep of the hit film cast a dark spell over their Mac or PC.
The bait, according to PC Tools, an online security company, consists of promises of free online downloads of the newest franchise installment. Nefarious sites and spam e-mails touting "Ways to Watch Harry Potter Online for Free" often redirect surfers to a download page: The downloads are not movies but malware.
And the scammers are not only targeting Potter lovers.
For those wrapped up in a different fantasy world, recent hubbub concerning a voyeur's video of a woman changing clothes in her hotel room, the woman is allegedly ESPN sports reporter Erin Andrews, is also being used to spread malware, according to Sophos.com, an online security company.
Search for this buzzy peepshow and a similar redirect is likely to get you.
Malware: How to Protect Yourself
Malicious software, or malware, covers viruses and spyware onto a computer that can be used to access personal information, monitor or control your computer activity, and commit all kinds of fraud. According to the Federal Trade Commission's OnGuardOnline.gov, your computer may be infected with malware if it is slower than normal, malfunctions or displays error messages repeatedly. Other clues that you may have malware include pop-ups being displayed when you are not on the web or the accessing web pages that you did not intend to view.
Here is what OnGuardOnline suggests that you do:
1. Stop online activities that involve user names, passwords, and other confidential information, such as shopping with a credit card or online banking.
2. Make sure that your security software is current, including anti-virus and anti-spyware software, as well as a firewall. (The site includes a list of software that they approve, too.)
3. Scan your computer for viruses and spyware. Delete the files that are flagged as problematic.
If you want to take it one step further, file a complaint with the FTC.
Snuggie Scam: Pay $150 for A $9 Rebate
Scam Busters: Twitter Money Making
Scam Busters: Typosquatting