The meteoric rise in popularity of social media platforms in recent years has led to a huge upswing in social media scams — putting a growing pool of users at risk.
The various platforms now boast a whopping 2.77 billion users worldwide as of 2019. This number presents scammers with an excellent opportunity to profit from doing what they do best.
According to Cybersecurity Ventures, 158,727 records are stolen from breaches every hour. It’s an alarming rate that is constantly on the rise because most of us don’t view our profiles as sources for data that are extremely valuable to potential scammers.
Most people aren’t aware of the potential security threat they face. All it takes to stay safe on social media is a little knowledge. Here are the most common social media scams and how you can avoid them.
1. Phishing Attempts via Social Media Messages
Phishing attempts are one of the most common means of attack for online scammers.
While target users via email, scammers also send social media users enticing invitations with deceitful intention to click on malicious links. Scammers may attempt to trick you with fake promotional offers, attention-grabbing articles, or even photos that appear to feature people you may know.
The victim is directed to a landing page and before they can claim their prize, view photos, or read the articles. On that page they’re required to enter sensitive information, such as passwords and personal information. Once you enter your login details, the cybercriminals have what they need to compromise your digital security.
If you use the same username and password for your email and bank accounts, this could be disastrous. Even if that’s not the case, the phisher can use the data to launch more sophisticated and malicious personal attacks.
To avoid falling victim to this type of social media scam, don’t respond to any of these direct messages. Do not enter any personal information on pop-up screens.
The Center for Internet Security has additional resources that will help you protect yourself from phishing scams.
2. “See Who Viewed Your Profile” Scams
This is one of the most common Facebook scams and also the easiest to avoid with a little background knowledge.
This variant comes across as a message or a post offering you the ability to find out who is viewing your profile. They attempt to steer you toward clickable links that will direct you to survey or gift card sites where you’ll be asked to submit your personal details in order to continue.
As mentioned above, entering your sensitive information on a rogue site means the hackers will also have access to it. Once the con artists have your valuable data, they can sell it or use it to steal your identity.
Now that you know Facebook doesn’t give you the ability to see who has viewed your profile this shouldn’t be a threat. Remember – knowledge is power.
3. Facebook Quizzes
Some of the fun and shareable quizzes on Facebook are designed to mine your sensitive data.
They may seem like innocent fun but some digital security companies have warned that scammers use them to take sensitive personal data. Launching a quiz app could give its creators permission to pull info from your profile which makes it easier for scammers to steal your online identity.
Some of the quiz apps that are already popular on social media could potentially be fraudulent in a manner where they support quizzes with embedded links to steal personal information from unsuspecting victims.
If you really just have to take that quiz your friend posted, just be careful. Do not answer any innocent-sounding personal questions about your favorite color, first car or father’s middle name. Scammers know these are common security questions that could give them access to your personal accounts online.
To stay safe from this scam, avoid taking quizzes unless you’ve been able to verify that they are authentic.
4. Cash Requests from “Friends”
Hijacked social media accounts are often used by scammers to steal from people on the original owner’s friends list.
Once they’ve gained access to an account, the scammers often invent a story explaining that they’re in a tight spot and need a small loan to pay off a bill, help out an ailing relative or something similar. They offer to pay the victim back promptly, sometimes even with interest. Because the victim thinks that they’re helping out a friend, they often don’t think twice about sending the desired sum via PayPal or Venmo.
Before responding to money requests, you may want to double-check with the friend in person or via a phone call. If you don’t have the person’s phone number and are wary about asking a potential scammer for the phone number, you can use a reverse phone lookup to search for it directly.
5. Hidden URLs
Shortened URLs are a growing security risk for social media platforms that have a limited character limit like Twitter.
Scammers are taking advantage of the URL-shortening and clickbait utilities to hide the identity of links that will land users on malware sites or lead them into other scams. Because the actual destination of the URL is typically hidden, it’s easy to fall victim to this type of fraud.
You should be cautious by checking the suspected links before visiting the destination. There are websites that can help aid you in retrieving the original URL from a shortened link. Lifewire has a helpful article that can teach you how to test a suspicious link without clicking on it.
Another recommended defense approach is ensuring that you’ve installed up-to-date antivirus software. which has features that offer you real-time protection against malware.
6. Chain Letters
Chain letters, also known as chain message hoaxes, are urgent alerts where we receive a warning or informing us of an emergency. The idea of this scam is to send messages to a huge number of social media users simply by asking each recipient to forward them to as many friends as possible.
Some of these chain letters are cleverly crafted, looking authentic in such a way that they appear to come from an official account. Since they leverage human emotions, hoaxes can easily convince you to take the actions suggested. Unfortunately, this poses a security risk of spreading viruses, increasing phishing attacks, or granting permissions to access personal data.
If you receive a chain letter, the best course of action is to delete or ignore it. Also, don’t click links within such messages or hand over your personal information on unverified petitions, surveys, and charity donations.
7. Dating Scams
Last on our list of social media frauds is the dating scam. In this case, scammers make their entirely fake profiles look as appealing and legit as possible. If you don’t reach out after becoming friends, they’ll be the one to strike a conversation with you.
As time passes, they build a strong emotional connection through DMs. But before you meet them in person, they usually start requesting for financial favors. Also, since the scammer has already established trust with you, they can send infected links to your inbox and direct you to sites that take your sensitive information hostage.
The best way you can avoid this scam is by connecting with your potential partner via webcam or video chat. If they start giving excuses, you should have second thoughts on pursuing this person.
Spokeo’s email search may also help you avoid this scam. It conducts a search for hidden social profiles connected to a particular email address.
Be Social and Stay Safe
Whether you’re a guru or new to social media, these social media security tips can help you avoid scams.
For some added backup, you’ll want to take advantage of services like Spokeo that scours the web collecting a lot of information about a person from many different sites and databases.