Social media plays an increasing role in both the professional and personal sides of our lives. Unfortunately, this means that we all experience an increase in exposure to the many scam attempts that will appear on our screens. Like any kind of scam, the best defense against those that appear on social media is good, old-fashioned awareness and vigilance.
Here, we’ll review the various scams that frequently appear on social media to help you better identify problematic content on your feeds. Many of these may not seem to apply to your business’ social media presence at first glance, but it is important to remember that your personal social media and your professional representation on social media are closely linked. As a result, a breach of your personal account could easily put your business’ representation at risk as well.
“See PHOTOS of the celebrity that secretly lives in your area!” “You’d never believe who DWAYNE JOHNSON spends his free time with!” “You’ll be SHOCKED to learn which beloved ‘90s sitcom cast formed a blood cult!”
You’ve likely seen ads pop up on your Facebook (or have had some of your connections share stories on their Newsfeeds) making claims similar to these. People like to live vicariously through the celebrities they admire, but these scams more often than not fool them into downloading malware after visiting a page. Fortunately, avoiding these scams is fairly simple – all you have to do is take in gossipy headlines with a grain of salt and avoid downloading programs from anywhere but the actual source.
Nigerian Scam/Stuck Abroad Scam
“Hello Dearest Friend, I am Prince Akinola. During the recent uprising in my country, my father was murdered in his sleep. To protect his riches, I seek a trustworthy Person to help me transfer 3 million US dollars into an account for a time. Helping me, you will be able to keep 35% of it to use as you see Fit. Please reply to me immediately with your name and phone number so I can leave this country and transfer the money to you.”
These scams are perhaps some of the most famous, originally appearing in Nigeria but quickly spreading the world over. Basically, instead of netting a large percentage of a fortune, the victim usually is scammed out of their banking credentials or are asked to pay “processing fees” before their “payment can be delivered.”
“I’m so glad I got the chance to send this message. I’m overseas in Europe and my wallet was stolen! I need $1,300 to get home. Could you wire over the money for me?”
In the more personal version of the Nigerian scam, a cybercriminal will hack into someone’s account and start spreading a facetious sob story among their friends and relatives, hoping that someone will wire money in an attempt to help. While we would all want to do anything, we could for a friend, it is important to verify their story with them via some other means of communication.
Lottery Scams/Who Viewed Your Profile Scam/IQ Scam
“Congratulations! A gift card worth $1500 is reserved for you!”
Wouldn’t it be nice, right? Quite a few of the scams that appear on social media come up in the form of pop-up messages, offering a generic prize in exchange for some personal information. Some will ask for a mobile number so they can charge data fees from you, while others will ask for your banking credentials to steal from you that way. While winning anything like what these scams offer would be undeniably awesome, you can’t win a contest that you didn’t enter.
“Want to know who’s been looking at your profile? Install this application to find out.”
One of the reasons that social media is so popular is the fact that many people use it as a popularity litmus test – how often have you posted something, only to be disappointed when so few of your followers reacted to it… or perhaps more did than your notifications would indicate? Scammers leverage this curiosity as a means of weaponizing fake links that claim to provide a list of people who have viewed their target’s profile, but actually only steal their data.
“Your IQ evaluation is finished. We’ll need a few more details to calculate your score, including your age and phone number.”
These kinds of plugins and applications seem to be a dime a dozen on social media, especially on Facebook. Somewhat ironically, these scams can actually test your intelligence… you just have to wonder how your phone number would factor into measuring your smarts. Here’s a hint: it doesn’t. These evaluations are typically just a means of getting your phone number so the persons responsible can start charging you.
Account Cancelled Scam
“We are writing you to confirm the account cancellation request that your submitted. To confirm or cancel this cancellation request, please link click below. Thank you, The Facebook Team”
If you receive a message or email from “Facebook” claiming to have received an account cancellation request from you (which you didn’t send), chances are that it is simply someone trying to direct you to a fraudulent login page so they can steal your information. Check the email address that the message came from and keep an eye out for any improper grammar or misspellings. The real Facebook can afford to hire copy editors to make sure their messages are properly composed.
Photo of You Scam
“Oh my god! LOL is this actually a photo of you?”
Some scammers like to replicate another user’s profile and will then try and scam the connections of the original page by sharing a link through an intriguing message, claiming to have a photo of them that needs to be seen. In actuality, this link will only provide the scammer with your information. Try not to click on any links that don’t seem quite right and consider setting your personal profile to private to prevent anyone who isn’t already connected to you from reaching out.
“Hey baby, I can’t wait to meet you, but I can’t quite swing the money for the ticket… could you send some cash to help me cover it? Looking forward to meeting in person.”
Ah, romance… it only makes sense that it contributes to one of the most effective online scams there is. According to the Federal Trade Commission, 2018 saw more than 21,000 reported romance scams, claiming a total of $143 million. These totals make catfishing scams one of the most effective means for scammers to make a quick buck. In fact, the median loss to one of these scams in 2018 was $2,600 – seven times the median loss of any of the other fraud types.
If you suspect you may be being catfished, try doing a reverse image search for the profile picture the person on the other end provided. If the images are also associated with another profile, you’re likely being targeted by a scammer. Don’t send money to anyone you haven’t met in person, and don’t be afraid to lean on those in your life who you know and trust for their two cents.
While social media can be a great business tool, it isn’t without its dangers – and even the more personal risks can spill over to affect your business. For other means of protecting your organization from threats, reach out to us at (626) 606-8594.