PA

The New Year will bring new security risks as fraudsters use more high-tech methods to get their hands on their cash.

This is the message from experts who are warning about the heightened risk of scams from using smartphones and social networking sites like Facebook.


Cifas – the government's fraud prevention service – has warned that consumers must be on their guard against new scams aimed at tricking them out of their cash.

"When times are tough, fraud increases," warns Cifas. "Individuals in desperate straits sometimes turn to desperate measures in order to make ends meet."

Today we round up the top 10 scams that parted consumers from their cash during 2011, which serve as a warning for the year ahead.

Cifas also says that targets will include Government services, as more and more are delivered online, and ATMs. Sports fans are also warned to be wary as the Olympics are also likely to be a focus for scams.

Facebook fraud
With many people having at least one social network profile, fraudsters are using "social engineering" to extort money through Facebook and Twitter.

By infecting a user's computer with a virus, the fraudsters can track when sites such as Facebook are visited and raid the user's "friends" list. The virus then sends an email to each friend, asking them to click on a link to view a photo or video. When friends trust the name of the sender, they click on the link, which in turn infects their own computer. These viruses often contain keystroke-logging software that will find track your passwords and other details.

To prevent this type of fraud, be wary of how much data you share on social networking sites and who can view your profile. Information such as your birthday for example, could be useful to a fraudster as your date of birth is a standard security question.

Do not click on strange attachments in your email – even if they purport to come from friends. If the tone of the email is odd or they ask you to click on an external link, be very suspicious.

iPads and Smartphones
If you were lucky enough to receive a new iPad or smartphone in your Christmas stocking, it is worth familiarising yourself with the security risks before you get too 'app-happy'.

In a report in the Telegraph today, Neil Fisher, head of global security systems at Unisys warns about text message scams and "too good to be true" apps – a risk Android phones users have been particularly vulnerable to this in recent weeks. The Android Market store, operated by Google, had a number of seemingly legitimate ''free'' versions of premium titles – yet the downloads contained malware that sent premium-rate text messages to users. The apps were downloaded more than 10,000 times.

To avoid this type of fraud, users are advised to check any apps you download onto new devices carefully for legitimacy and check your mobile phone bill regularly. Also be wary of responding to texts from unknown numbers.