Titled "Not So Friendly" the article warns that fraudsters gain access to the names of your friends on social networking sites, like MySpace.com, and invite you to click on a hyperlink to view a funny video.
Victims figure they know the sender, so they click to watch. Then their screen freezes, and they get a message telling them their video player needs upgrading.
Click to upgrade, however, and you have just accepted a Trojan horse, which follows your movements online. Through it, scammers can capture personal information, including credit card numbers, social security numbers and even online check photographs when you conduct business online.
"Malware and Trojans [are] distributed on a massive scale," one expert says.
Other illegal banking activities also are increasing.
Identity theft increased 22 percent to nearly 10 million victims in 2008, according to Javelin Strategy. And the Federal Trade Commission clocked 313 982 identity-theft complaints, up from 215 000 in 2003.
More than 5 million U.S. consumers lost money to "phishing" attacks in the year ending September 2008, a 40 percent increase over the number of victims a year earlier, according to the respected research firm Gartner Inc.
On average, 44 percent of a community bank's check fraud losses could be attributed to organised crime rings, the American Bankers Association reported.
Marketwatch offers the following precautionary tips:
* Be sceptical of messages urging you to upgrade programs or download anything, even if you think you know the person.
* Upgrade antivirus software, personal firewalls and browsers. Let your operating system accept automatic patches with updates.
* Don't respond to work-at-home ads or promises of money or returns that sound too good to be true.
* Be wary of providing personal information to people you don't know.
* In the US - check credit reports annually for free at AnnualCreditReport.com.
* Before cashing checks and money orders from people you don't know, verify funds exist in the account at the issuing financial institution.
* Carefully and routinely monitor bank and investment statements for evidence of fraud, and immediately report anything suspicious.
* Don't click on email hyperlinks.
* Change passwords often.
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