The hype about Apple Incorporated's iPad computing tablet has provided fertile ground for scammers who, posing as Apple representatives, supposedly offer a free iPad to product testers, but at a high price: your e-mail address, account password and your list of e-mail contacts.

One e-mail making the rounds looks like this:

Hello <name>,

Your contact "\\email address\\" invited you to join our TestitandKeepit program.

At this time we are actively searching for people who will be willing to test the new Apple iPad. The testing period will take only two months, after which you may keep it as compensation.

To see more details and register to our program, follow the link below:

http://www.testitandkeepit.com/1

Thanks,

The TestitandKeepit Team

Since the e-mail invitation references "Your contact," it is a good bet that the TestitandKeepit.com Team obtained it from a friend's contact/address book.

Supplying an e-mail password effectively hands over complete control of your e-mail account. That information allows the recipient to change your password, lock you out of your e-mail account and spam your friends and colleagues with similar offers to become iPad testers.

Connecticut Better Business Bureau President, Paulette Scarpetti, says the clamor over the devices made them an attractive target with which to cheat consumers who want to get their hands on an iPad, as was the case with Apple iPhones and iPods.

"Popular high tech items, collectibles and virtually anything with a wide appeal are typical targets for scammers. These offers are tempting, but they sound too good to be true and in fact, are too good to be true."

Social networking sites are also increasingly becoming vectors for such scams.

Offers to become a tester cropped up on Facebook but with a different intent. As software company Sophos explains in an online video, the Facebook page "iPad Researchers Wanted--Get an iPad Early and Keep It" was designed to trick people into signing up for a cell phone subscription service that cost $10 a month. Sophos alerted Facebook to the page--which had already racked up more than 3,500 fans--and it was taken down, but users should be on the lookout for similar offers.

Not all bogus offers come under the guise of becoming a tester. The Internet security and virus detection company McAfee reported on its security blog that another version of iPad spam e-mails have landed in people's inboxes offering free iPads, but the catch is that you have to first buy items and provide your credit card number.

History dictates these will likely not be the last iPad-related scams. If you're planning to buy an iPad, BBB recommends shopping through an authorized retailer or buy directly from Apple. Eventually a secondary market for the iPad will spring up online on sites like Craigslist. If you plan on buying an iPad secondhand, purchase it from someone local and never wire money as payment.

For more advice on how to be a smart online shopper, visit http://www.bbb.org/us/consumer-tips-technology/.