PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM SOCIAL MEDIA SCAMS
Social media sites are great tools that allow us to keep in touch with people, but they are also a source of online scams. Many of us have come to rely on the likes of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stay connected with friends, news, to look at jobs, or even to buy things. With the rise in a site’s popularity, fraud also increases. Understanding the potential risks is important. Your online activities may expose excessive information about your identity, location, affiliations, and relationships, which leads to an increased risk of identity theft and other online crimes.
WHAT KIND OF SCAMS OCCUR ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
Fraudsters use a variety of tactics. Some scams include:
- Cybercriminals use social media to identify victims and steal their personal information.
- By posing as a friend, a criminal could trick you into sending money. They can also obtain private personal information from you.
- By following your feed, a phisher could gather details for a highly targeted attack.
- Be thoughtful about what you share online and be careful of links. Before you click, hover your mouse over the URL to see its true destination.
- To minimize your risk, decline friend requests from people you don’t know.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST TYPES OF SOCIAL MEDIA SCAMS?
Scams are getting more and more sophisticated. Branded logos, false terms, fake or duplicated websites, and even the disclaimers and conditions appear genuine. Social media fraud can range and may include spam emails, fake corporate giveaways, non-legitimate investment tips, fake sweepstakes winnings, advertisements for questionable health products, or even fake non-profit fundraisers. All of these scams are intended to get you to send money or click on malware-loaded links.
ROMANCE SCAMMERS & FAKE FRIENDS
It goes without saying that you should be wary of who you keep in touch with on social media. Romance scammers create legitimate-looking profiles on social media and use them to woo potential victims (a practice known as catfishing). Unfortunately, catfishing is surprisingly common. The fraudster may ask for money, assistance because they are in a bad situation, or send you a phishing link that takes you to a malicious site.
FREE APP DOWNLOADS
Often apps ask you to give your personal information. Sometimes an app that seems real will actually download malware onto your device. Before getting new apps, ask yourself if you trust the source. Research the app your want before downloading. Also, always avoid third-party app stores – stick to the one given to you by your device’s provider.
Online questionnaires promising to tell you your personality type, which celebrity you look like, or give you a too-good-to-be-true prize, often come with hidden threats. They usually include terms and conditions which allow the data you enter to be sold to third parties. It also means the app developer can obtain a lot of information about you from your profile, friends, and IP address. Avoid any short quizzes advertised on social media sites. They may seem fun, but launching a quiz app may give its creators permission to pull information from your profile, offering hackers an opening to steal your online identity.
Beware of clicking on URLs that hide the full location of the webpage. They could direct you to a malicious site or one that installs malware. Be wary of what you click on, check if the post is typical behavior from the account publishing it, and make sure you have real-time protection against spyware and viruses.
HOW TO STAY SAFE ON SOCIAL MEDIA
USE STRONG, UNIQUE PASSWORDS
You should have unique passwords for all your online accounts, including email. People often have the same passwords for their accounts, which is dangerous. If your password also uses any type of personal details (like a pet’s name, place you were born, or hobbies) a fraudster might easily grab this from your social media posts.
DO NOT POST PERSONAL DETAILS
If you’re sharing your nicknames, pet’s names, address, or when you’re on holiday, you’re probably increasing your risk of a fraudster being able to piece together your details.
MAKE YOUR ACCOUNT PRIVATE
In the security settings of the app, you have the option to control your privacy settings. You can choose to block or limit information to those individuals who are not a friend. You can also limit the details of what you share. This way only trusted friends and family can see what you’re posting.
STEER CLEAR OF STRANGERS
If someone contacts you on social media asking for personal details, be very careful. Always make sure they are genuine and you’re providing details for the right reason.
DELETE OLD SOCIAL MEDIA PROFILES
Keep track of your digital footprint by removing any accounts you no longer use. If a profile was created ten years ago, there may be personal information currently available for a fraudster to use that you’re not aware of or you have forgotten about.
- To learn more about identity theft fraud safety visit ID Theft Center.
- If you think you’ve been a victim of identity theft, contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at 877-IDTHEFT (438-4338) or visit the Federal Trade Commission’s site to learn more.
- If you believe your Social Security Number is being used fraudulently contact the Social Security Administration at (800) 772-1213.
- It’s a good idea to get a copy of your credit report each year from each credit-reporting agency. You can get a free credit report yearly from the Annual Credit Report website at annualcreditreport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228 where you will go through a simple verification process over the phone. It is important that you obtain and review a copy of your credit report once a year to make sure your information is accurate.
- For financial literacy, check out Upgrade| our blog or our financial education page.
- To file a complaint about a suspected fraudulent email, contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.