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updated 9/1/2011 1:49:55 PM ET 2011-09-01T17:49:55

With the iPhone 5's release date looming, and hype quickly generating about every aspect of the highly anticipated new gadget, the smartphone is already giving online scammers powerful ammunition to steal your identity.

Several new Facebook pages, with titles such as "iPhone 5 Giveaway and "Innovative iPhone 5 Giveaway," have sprung up, researchers at the security firm Sophos reported, each offering users the exclusive opportunity to win the Apple phone before it hits stores.

(Apple has not officially announced the next iPhone, or even confirmed what it will be called, but Internet rumors have pegged Sept. 30 as the day Apple will start taking pre-orders, with the phone expected to arrive in stores the week of Oct. 7.)

[iPhone 5 Has Larger Display and Metal Case, Source Claims]

These phony giveaway sites may look enticing, but Sophos' senior technology consultant has a warning he wants everyone to heed: "Repeat after me: There is no free iPhone."

Entering "iPhone 5 Giveaway" into Google is potentially even more dangerous. The search yields more than 18 million results, including a host of websites which promise visitors the chance to test out the phone before its release date in exchange for their email address.

"Each time you enter one of these online giveaways," Cluley added, "you could be handing over your personal information to scammers and putting money into their pockets."

Now this would hopefully be an open and shut case of ignoring websites that look suspicious if it weren't for the news that, despite Apple's company policy of closely guarding its products before their unveiling, there is already an iPhone 5 on the loose.

According to CNET, an Apple employee left an iPhone 5 at Cava 22, a San Francisco bar, in late July. Nearly the same scenario occurred last year before the release of the iPhone 4.

© 2012 SecurityNewsDaily. All rights reserved

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