Last week I wrote about “Royal Birth” scams that tried to steal consumers’ personal and financial information (“Royal Birth Generating Scams: Consumers Alert”; July 24th).  Today I want to warn consumers about a variation on this scam, i.e., phony CNN “Breaking News” emails.  Do not open links in these emails!  The only “news” consumers will get if they do is the “news” that they’ve fallen prey to a malware scheme.

Graham Cluley has reported about this scam.  He warns that the scam emails, and imbedded links, look very real.  His article has excellent screen shots of the scam emails (grahamcluley.com; “Beware! Fake CNN Breaking News emails spread malware attack”; July 25).  Mr. Cluley’s article credits Gary Warner, a cybercrime researcher, with the alerts about the latest scam (garwarner.blogspot.co.uk; “Royal Baby” & Other CNN Spam leads to malware”).

Scammers sent out fake CNN “Breaking News” emails about the Royal Birth but have done so about other topics.  As Mr. Cluley wrote, the headline grabbing topics in the scam emails are similar or identical to the ones in real CNN stories — that’s partly what makes this scam even harder to spot and avoid.

What to do if you get a CNN “Breaking News” email? Delete immediately!  What happens if you open a link to the story in the scam email? As Mr. Cluley and Mr. Warner warn, opening the link results in a fake pop-up message leading to a supposed update for Adobe Flash. That pop-up will also look very real but will lead to installing the Zeus banking malware on computers.

What can consumers do to avoid unwittingly infecting their computers?  First and foremost — go to the legitimate news site to read stories of interest . Mr. Cluley has other good consumer tips that are worth reading.

Consumers who follow that simple tip can help thwart the scammers and thieves — and help keep themselves from becoming identity theft victims.