Social media has connected us to each other and the world at large in ways that were hard to imagine a few decades ago. Direct communication with family and friends, alongside access to instant information made possible through these platforms, has been a welcome benefit and convenience. We can stay in touch with people, places, and current events the world over like we never could before.
Alongside this convenience, though, there is a seedy underbelly to social media quickly becoming apparent to anyone catching a glimpse of it firsthand. Identity fraud and other scams lurk within most popular social media platforms, preying on individuals with a false sense of security provided by a familiar network. A vast amount of seemingly endless data and personal information are given freely to these apps and platforms – opening the doors to ongoing cyberthreats.
Common Social Media Scams
Many of the most prevalent social media scams are similar to other threats that you are probably already aware of. One essential aspect of the danger for you to understand before we highlight some of these is that threat actors take advantage of the comfort users of social media perceive within their favorite platforms. You should never view social media as completely secure, no matter if it’s a longstanding big-name platform or a hot new app. Always guard your personal information and be cautious of external links, sales offer, and other questionable tactics that it may use to get you to provide valuable personal information to it.
The FTC reports that nearly $117 million was stolen from social media users during the first half of 2020 – a new record high. Criminals took this money in a number of ways, but most of it through scams resembling phishing in the form of phony sales offers, financial assistance services, and dating/romance schemes. Facebook and Instagram are the leading platforms for phony product offers, romance rip-offs, and other social scams.
Keep an eye out for profiles that seem questionable. If a company is offering a product or sale that looks too good to be true, it probably is. Verify that the company actually exists by searching for its products outside of social media. If you can’t find a legitimate website for the offer outside of the social media platform, there’s a pretty good chance it’s a scam. The FTC also recommends doing a basic google search by typing in the company name or product in question alongside the words ‘scam’ or ‘complaint’ to see if other consumers have reported issues.
Romance scams can be avoided using a little common sense – easier said than done for any lovelorn readers. If a stranger pops up randomly into your network or social media circle via direct messaging or any other means, take a minute to exercise caution before getting too excited. Some of these scams can be pretty elaborate and tug on your heartstrings, and a reality check can be crucial to help navigate the possible hazard. Take a look at some these types of scams more in-depth here.
Is Social Media Safe?
Just like any other online or digital space you interact with; social media has inherent safety concerns. A false sense of security associated with a popular platform or app can leave users vulnerable to threats they might otherwise spot clearly ahead of time. It’s important to know that just because a platform is popular doesn’t mean it has flawless security measures to keep your personal information safe. Fake profiles are easily generated within the most well-known apps and are designed to exploit anyone who lets their guard down.
Fake profiles aren’t the only threat, however. You might have a legitimate contact that can be the source of a scam as well. Facebook Messenger has been the source of one recent cyberthreat involving compromised accounts sending links to their personal contacts. Although many of us have experienced similar instances through a hacked email account or the like, be wary of any links sent through direct messaging within social media – even if they are from your known contacts. If you do happen to click on a questionable link and are redirected, never give up your personal information.
While the major social media platforms have security measures to prevent scams from happening, there is no way to stop them outright. Not every account you interact with is going to be a scam, but you can expect that you will inadvertently interact with a bogus account or some scheme that attempts to steal your personal information at some point. And even when one of these threat actors gets found out, another two take their place. The rate of social media scams and the amount of money cybercriminals steal them will continue to rise. It’s safe to assume that your socials are never entirely safe.
How to Avoid Social Media Scams
General due diligence and an awareness of online security best practices are important for everyone across any and all social platforms or apps they that might be used. Knowing how to spot a potential scam can limit immediate security concerns as well as reduce the likelihood of instances of identity fraud down the road.
Some of these best practices to help you avoid social media scams include:
- Use unique passwords. Never use the same password with any other of your online accounts, social media included.
- Stay suspicious of any potential contact, link, or offer that may be phony. If it seems questionable, it probably is.
- Be aware of common scams such as phony sales and promotions, random romantic inquiries, and any message that asks for money or offers financial services.
- Don’t click on links that come from unsolicited sources through direct messaging within social media platforms.
- Never provide your personal information to untrusted sources. This is advice for any online space but applies to social media as well.
- Have a restoration plan in place. Identity theft restoration services can help limit the impact and damage caused by a scam or other form of cyber fraud.
LibertyID provides expert, full service, fully managed identity theft restoration to individuals, couples, extended families* and businesses. LibertyID has a 100% success rate in resolving all forms of identity fraud on behalf of our subscribers.
*Extended families – primary individual, their spouse/partner, both sets of parents (including those that have been deceased for up to a year), and all children under the age of 25