In our interconnected world where social media has become an integral part of our lives, it’s time to chat about the not-so-fun side of social media. These sites are full of scammers who use social media platforms as prime hunting grounds for new victims.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that social media scams were the most frequently reported type of scam in 2023. From fake investment opportunities to hacked profiles, social media scams have many different faces.
Knowing what to watch for is half the battle. Some useful social media scam data from the FTC can be found here.
5 tips to protect yourself from social media scams:
1. Profile Privacy Settings
While it’s exciting to share your latest adventures and culinary triumphs, oversharing provides a wealth of information to cyber criminals that can be used against you.
Not utilizing privacy settings is like leaving your front door wide open! In the settings of your social media accounts, take time to view and tweak these privacy settings to keep yourself protected.
Sensitive information like your address, phone number, or birthdate should not be visible to strangers. Trust those in your real-life network to have this information already or use alternative means to acquire it securely.
2. Beware of Fake Opportunities
Fake investment and job opportunities are all over social media. Legitimate opportunities will rarely come in the form of a spontaneous social media message or ad. Before going forward with an advertised opportunity, do your homework first.
Even if something feels legitimate, do thorough research. Look up the company and any persons related to the offer. If you can’t find concrete information about them and the company, it’s likely a scam.
Low risk high reward offers are a common tactic used by scammers. They create excitement and a sense of urgency surrounding an offer to trick you into sharing personal information or sending money. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
3. Be Cautious of all Communications
Whether you’re messaging with an old friend or someone new, be on your toes! Social media accounts can get hacked, so messages that appear to come from the profile of a trusted friend can still be fake.
Once an account is compromised, the scammer may message friends and family of the account owner to trick the recipient into sending money, personal information, or clicking on a malicious link.
Additionally, watch out for tactics where scammers mimic existing accounts of people and businesses. If you receive a duplicate friend request from someone you’re already connected with, it very well could be a scammer impersonating them.
4. Always Research Before You Buy
FTC data shows that 44% of all social media related scam reports are from online shopping scams. Many of these scams originate from product ads or in buy-and-sell groups on Facebook or Instagram. With these scams, once a purchase is made to a fraudulent site or individual, the item never arrives, and your payment method could be compromised.
Before you purchase from a company you learned about on social media, do a quick online search to see if they’re reputable. Don’t trust the reviews you find on the product’s website. Seek out reviews from third parties.
Always go directly to the site’s URL you intend to purchase from instead of using a link found on social media in case it’s a fake site impersonating the real one.
5. Secure Accounts with 2FA
Always secure your social media accounts with Two-Factor Authentication (2FA). It’s like adding an extra lock on your door. Scammers have varied motives for hacking into social media accounts, ranging from identity theft to selling your personal information on the dark web.
If your account is hacked, scammers can impersonate you to trick your friends and family into giving up their personal information, clicking a malicious link, or into sending money.
Using 2FA not only protects you, but it helps prevent those you care about from getting scammed.
You can never be too careful when navigating social media. Scammers are lurking around every click! Before sending money, making a purchase, or giving out personal information, take a moment to consider whether a scammer could be behind the request.
By using these 5 tips, you’ll be better prepared to protect yourself against the tricks of social media scammers.