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Researchers have revealed the extent to which new social media websites and features have led to a new range of online scams and threats. Here are the top three threats users should look out for when joining a social network.
Security researchersnreveal the rollout of new social media sites and features are leading to anfresh crop of online scams and threats. Online security company PC Tools has predicted three top threats that consumers shouldnbe on the lookout while joining, logging in or engaging on social networks:

1.    nEmail alerts for “tagged” photosnwhere YOU might appear online

Social networks are developing increased intelligencenfor facial recognition to assist with tagging photos. When you’re tagged in anphoto or at a location in your photo album, you can often expect an email ornnotification letting you know where to view it online.  Take caution.nCybercriminals may be using this as a tactic to get you to click on maliciousnlinks asking for information—possibly even prompting you to click on a linknleading to a fake login and password entry form posing as your social network.

2.    nOnline robots or “bots” on socialnnetworking sites will be more sophisticated

PC Tools believe within the next few months thatnsocial media “bots” will become more advanced, effectively creatingnhuman-looking profiles and personalities. Cybercriminals rely on bots becausenthey are the fastest and most cost-effective way to spread malware, spyware andnscams through social network sites.

Through these bots, criminals can auto-create bogusnpersonalities on social networks, which can in turn link to fake companies thatnsell products—all to trick users into buying merchandise that isn’t real ornspreading news that doesn’t actually exist.

3.    nAn increase in fake invites to joinn“new” or “exclusive” social networks or social groups

New social networks are popping up every day, some ofnwhich are “invite only” making them more appealing. Cybercriminals could usenthis appeal as a method to lure users into clicking on fake invites fornexclusive networks. Upon clicking on these invites, users could be asked tonprovide personal details such as name, login, password or birthdates whichnshould not be released.

“If you’re looking tonjoin the hottest new social network, be careful where you click—your personalnlife may be at risk,” said Richard Clooke, Worldwide Reviews Programme andnPublic Relations manager (EMEA) at PC Tools.  “Cybercriminals are takingnadvantage of the buzz surrounding these new social networks and features byntricking unsuspecting users to divulge personal information or downloadnmalware.”

Clooke added that today’snmalware looks legitimate, but what may seem like a harmless email or link cannactually result in a person’s stolen identity or credit card data theft.nAccording to Pew Research, 46% of internet users agree thatn“most people can be trusted”—a prime reason why cybercriminals are sonsuccessful at duping consumers.

PC Tools’ award-winningntechnology detects and blocks malware and alerts users to websites that mightnhost web threats. PC Tools Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus 2011 defends yourncomputer with multiple layers of protection to stop threats at every entrynpoint and Internet Security 2011 blocks new threatsnfaster than traditional security products, while Browser Defender protects against web-based attacks like phishingnattempts and malicious downloads.

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @gadgetza

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