NEW YORK (CBS 2) — With more than 1 billion people logging on to social networking sites and sharing their personal information daily, authorities say it’s no wonder these sites are becoming the targets of con artists.

In the latest scheme, hackers have found a way to get their hands on not only your money but your friends’ cash, too.

Social networking has opened up a new world, changing how we stay in touch.

“People you don’t normally call on the phone you can just send a message on Facebook and get in touch with them and catch up with them,” one user said.

And how we get to know new people?

“Yeah, cause people who know other people who want to get to know me they look for me there,” another user said.

“If you’re out with friends and I meet one of their friends and I see their face again through their friends list or something,” another said.

But it may also open you up to being scammed. Con artists are targeting social networking sites more than ever.

In the latest scheme they’re using games or viral videos to bait users.

“These kinds of scams were designed to make people fall for them and criminals are very clever about them and they are trying to actively find ways to get us to click on things,” said CMU cyber security expert Jason Hong.

In many cases you’re inadvertently giving them access to your personal information.

“The age of privacy is gone,” cyber crime expert Roger Thompson said.

Thompson, who is based in Europe, says people are getting scammed without even knowing it.

Here’s how it works. You’re on your social networking home page and notice that several of your friends have been checking out a certain video clip. So you do the same, but you’re asked to provide some basic personal information, like your email address, first.

“These guys had 600,000 victims before Facebook noticed and shut it down,” Thompson said.

You may think it’s no big deal to give up this kind of information because it’s not important like your social security number, but thieves are still able to use it to steal identities. What’s worse, security experts say every person on their friends list was also put at risk.

“Who knows what they are doing with that information? Maybe nothing, we don’t know. They might be doing a field test before they start doing other kind of attacks just to see how many people are willing to fall for it,” Hong said.

Other scams start with a fake posting from friends that link to something like an IQ test. Take it and you could find it leads to charges on your cell phone account. Or some hackers who hijack accounts ask friends to lend them money.

So what if anything can you do to protect yourself?

Security experts say avoid taking any pop-up quizzes. Don’t respond to video requests requiring a download and never wire money to a friend without actually speaking to them first.

If a charge shows up on your cell phone bill, have your carrier block it for future months.

Also, security experts recommend that you run anti-virus software on your computer and change your password frequently.

(© MMX, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

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