Social media has grown at an unprecedented rate around the world. Every day, millions of users log into Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms to share their daily lives and connect with friends.
But as social media has grown, so too has the number of scammers looking to take advantage of that rise. Social media allows scammers to hide anonymously behind an avatar, fake account, or a malicious link.
These scams vary broadly, from a supposed friend asking for emergency money to a link pretending to offer a gift card in exchange for information. They can result in embarrassment, financial problems, hacked accounts, and even have ripple effects on a business.
But by knowing some of the conventional vectors of attack, you can better protect yourself and avoid becoming a victim.
Requests for Money
Scammers can look to extort money out of their victims in a variety of different ways on social media. For instance, you might get a friend request from someone on social media who seems friendly but then suddenly needs money.
The scam may even be less obvious than that, like when a long-time friend or family member messages you to say they are trapped abroad and need money to get home. It may seem like a reasonable request from a real-life friend but is a scammer who broke into their account to send the message. The only way to verify is with the real person.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers on social media may use free gift cards as a way to lure unsuspecting users, saying the user “won” the prize. Some users may recognize a scam if the website asks for their banking information to wire the winnings, but other attempts may be more subtle. For instance, even giving away a phone number can allow scammers to charge you data fees or sell that information to a third party.
We’re used to hearing about phishing attempts by email, but they can happen on social media too. These links could lure the user in many different ways, maybe referencing some of their favorite hobbies or by alluding to a folder of salacious photos.
The links may lead you to a malicious page or prompt you to enter your social media credentials. The lesson here — just like phishing — is always to be sure you know the link you’re clicking and to never enter your credentials on an unconfirmed site.
Other scams could use social media to prey on some of the users’ need to access services. For instance, a common scam purports to be from the Social Security Administration or a healthcare provider, saying the user’s benefits or social security number has been suspended. The scammer may then ask for personal user information or a fee to “reinstate” it.
Another similar scam may pretend to be from the official social media company itself, saying that the user’s account has been suspended. It may then ask the user to log into the account – giving the scammer the user’s credentials. In either of these cases, take time to verify the source. That may mean calling your healthcare provider or other points of contact to confirm that they did indeed send this warning.
These are only a few of the many social media scams circulating the internet today. The key for users is to remain vigilant about cybersecurity best practices, even when relaxing and browsing social media.