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updated 1/25/2012 12:15:18 PM ET 2012-01-25T17:15:18

A personal email from Mark Zuckerberg promising you, and only you, a new iPad3 before Apple even releases it? If it sounds a little phishy, a little too good to be true, then you're a step ahead of the game, and will hopefully avoid getting reeled in by the alluring offer.

Thisparticular scam, spotted by researchers at Symantec, arrives in victims' email inboxes in the form of a personalized email titled "Dear Facebook User." Supposedly signed by the social networking giant's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, the email says Facebook has "joined up with Apple for a one-time promotional event today" to give away an Apple iPad3.

The iPad3, of course, is not yet on the market, and Apple has not announced a release date.

Recipients of the malicious email are told to click on a link to visit the promotional site to ensure that Facebook and Apple reserve the iPad3 for the lucky winner. The site, Symantec discovered, is a survey that demands that users input their email addresses — a move that generates money for the scammers and could leave victims vulnerable to spam or identity theft.

This email should raise some immediate red flags. For example: Why would Mark Zuckerberg email you? How did you win a contest you didn't enter? How can you win a product that, like the iPhone 5, doesn't exist? Its questionable characteristics and popular keywords — Apple, Facebook, iPad — make this scam a perfect representation of how online crooks angle for your identity using alluring bait and hope to reel you in before you do any second-guessing.

A few basic tips: Be skeptical about any unsolicited emails, especially any messages that mention a prize or contest you've won, or that come from somebody (such as Mark Zuckerbeg) who has no business personally emailing you. Make sure you have up-to-date anti-virus software installed on your system. And remember, as always: If something seems to good to be true, it probably is.

© 2012 SecurityNewsDaily. All rights reserved

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