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Police advise people to use protection programs and complex passwords. ((CBC))

A Fredericton woman is devastated that her email, Facebook and Twitter accounts have been hijacked and used as part of a scam, but police say such incidents are becoming more common across the province.

Sheilah MacPhee said twice in the past month people she's connected with received a false email that she had been mugged in Spain and needed money to get back home.

"I felt so bad that this went through my account, to my friends and I sincerely apologize for that happening. It's just an awful, awful feeling," she said.

Although MacPhee hasn't heard of anyone falling for the scam, she said it has left her feeling vulnerable about going online.

"I'm ready to go back to mailing and phone booths. A huge violation and a sense of security is really weakened," she said.

RCMP Cpl. Guy Paul Laroque, of the commercial crimes section, said MacPhee is not alone.

"Since the beginning of the year we've had five victims lose close to $12,000 in total in New Brunswick and we've had 23 reports."

Anyone who's the victim of identity theft should report it to police, said Laroque. But given the international scope of the internet, there's usually little they can do, he said.

The best advice, Laroque said, is to use protection programs and complex passwords.