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Social networking site linked to ID theft

July 9, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Ever hear of Tagged.com? Maybe you got an e-mail from a friend, or at least you thought it was from a friend, that wanted you to look at some of their photos. Unfortunately taking the next step may have put your personal information at risk.When Time magazine reporter Sean Gregory got an e-mail from a friend saying she'd posted photos on the site Tagged.com, he logged on to see them, but there were no pictures. It was a ruse.

Gregory says the ruse was designed to steal his online address book.

"As soon as I clicked it I got these e-mails from my wife and best friend saying, 'What the heck is this? Should I touch this?' It made me so angry I wrote about it," explains Gregory.

The New York Attorney General's office says Gregory was one of 60 million people allegedly duped by Tagged.

The allegations involve a practice called contact scraping.

Security experts at Symantec in Culver City say it's a growing, invasive form of identity theft.

"That means it goes into your e-mail address, looks for all of the people and contacts you have in there and it automatically sends messages out to them on your behalf. If it is happening without your knowledge then that is abusing someone's privacy and trust," said Vincent Weafer from Symantec.

Investigators say a Web site uses one person's e-mail address to lure his friends and associates into giving up their personal contacts.

"It's like breaking into somebody's home, stealing their address book and sending letters to all of their friends and pretending to be them," said Benjamin Lawsky from the N.Y. Attorney General's office.

Symantec recommends being very careful with any social networking Web site.

"Don't use the same passwords for lots of different server providers, social networking sites. Change it around. We know it is difficult, but there are programs that will manage your e-mail and passwords across different systems," said Weafer.

Also don't forget to read the terms of use on any Web site, which spell out how these sites can use your personal information. Tagged.com has issued a statement apologizing for any problems and says it is cooperating with the investigation.

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