Learn About Social Media Scams and How to Prevent Them
Extensive use of social media makes us susceptible to social media scams. Here are some social media scams and tips on avoiding social media scams.
How much do you use social media? Today, social media is an essential part of nearly everyone’s life. Globally, more than 3.8 billion people use it on a daily basis. The pandemic has changed how a lot of people interact with social media, and the increasing popularity of these platforms has created an increased risk of fraud and social media scams.
Social media scams are getting more sophisticated with time, often making use of brand logos and duplicitous terms and conditions to seem authentic. In this article, we will take a look at some of the most popular social media scams and give you some tips to protect yourself when you use social media.
The State of Social Media Scams
For most of us, social media is a place that we can use to connect and communicate with our friends and family. However, cybercriminals treat social media as a goldmine of personal information and a platform they can use to potentially scam people.
Research has shown that the number of social media attacks per target has seen an increase of 103% from January 2021. This emphasises the fact that cyber criminals regularly use social media to commit fraud, masquerade as trust brands and officials, and target users all over the world.
Social media scams are a common occurrence as they depend on human error. These mistakes can come in the form of clicking on malicious links in private messages or posting something that reveals private information that can be used for identity theft. For instance, all a Facebook scammer needs to do to spread malware is to pretend to be an individual’s friend and fool them into downloading malware through the Messenger app.
Types of Social Media Scams
While there are hundreds of different types of social media scams, here are a few that you should be wary of:
- Quizzes- In this social media scam, online questionnaires promise to tell you your personality type or which celebrity you look like, or some kind of reward. These questionnaires hide various threats, such as terms and conditions that will allow your data to be sold to third parties. App developers can also acquire a lot of information about you from your profile, friends, and IP address. Do not take any short quizzes that are advertised on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
- Non-existent Goods Scams- This is a social media scam where fraudsters attempt to advertise fake goods on social media and encourage the victims to place orders. They then fail to send any goods and completely disappear with the victims’ money.
- Prize Pool/ Giveaway Scams- Often, cybercriminals will advertise free item giveaways or lucky draws to attract victims. They ask users to like and comment on posts in order to win free items. This allows them to farm likes so that they can add a malware link to the post which will infect the devices of other users.
- Identity Theft- Attackers often combine different social media platforms to try to collect personal information such as name, date of birth, personal pictures, etc of their targets. They use this collected information to commit identity theft in the future. They can use your personal information to commit crimes and frauds such as taking out loans under your name, etc.
- Fake Friends- A very common social media scam where fraudsters will send friend requests, build up a rapport, and then ask for money only to disappear once they get the money. Another way these scams work is by the scammer posing as one of your friends and sending you a phishing link that will take you to a malicious website.
Tips to Avoid Social Media Scams
Although modern scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated, here are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself from falling prey to a social media scam:
- Set Your Account to Private: Make sure your account is set to private. If not, then ensure that only limited details are visible on anything that can be viewed by the public. This way only trusted people can see what you share. Restricting who can view your posts on social media greatly reduces the chances of a cybercriminal performing a “reconnaissance” on you. It can prevent them from reaching out to you with scams and fake offers. Another thing you can do is opt out of targeted advertising because targeted advertisements can be used to fool you into buying fake goods or visiting a phishing site.
- Stay Away from Strangers: Block anyone who asks for money or personal information even if they appear to be someone you may know. If someone contacts you on any social media platform and asks for any personal details, be wary. Ensure their authenticity before providing any details.
- Don’t Share Personal Information and Delete Old Social Media Profiles: By sharing your nicknames, pet’s name, address, or where and when you are on holiday, you are opening yourself up to social media scams. Cybercriminals can use these to compile information about you. You should also keep track of your digital footprint by removing any accounts that you do not use anymore. An old profile may contain personal information that you do not remember or are not aware of. Such information can be used by scammers.
- Use Good Passwords: Unique passwords for all online accounts including emails are essential to avoiding social media scams. Having the same password for multiple accounts is risky especially if it uses any kind of personal detail like your mother’s maiden name or a pet’s name. Cybercriminals can easily grab this information from social media posts and use it to scam you.
- Use Anti-Virus Software and Avoid Public Wi-Fi: Installing anti-virus software can help protect your devices from malware and viruses. Often, scammers pose as a genuine Wi-Fi network or hack into an existing one to acquire private details from users. If you have no choice but to use public Wi-Fi, avoid any apps that hold sensitive information such as mobile banking applications.
Using these tips will surely help you avoid social media scams. It is extremely important to be vigilant while using social media and make sure you never overshare on any social media platforms. While social media connects you with your loved ones, it also puts you at risk, so it is best to use it wisely.