Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, connect us both personally and professionally with friends, family, business associates, and causes. And participation is free to everyone, which has led to an unprecedented use of social media.
As of April 2021, 3.96 billion people identified as social media users. This represents half of the world's population (7.7 billion) and more than 70% of the population of the United States. Globally, the average person spends more than 2 hours per day on social media. It's not surprising that criminals have focused their attention on these internet platforms to gather personal information and gain trust. Not to mention using them to socially engineer their way to fraud resulting in billions of dollars of losses annually.
Being alert to potential scams is the best way to protect yourself against fraud and identity theft.
1. CONGRATULATIONS, YOU WON!
Prize scams make you believe that you have somehow qualified for a prize just by using social media. They're designed to lure you to click on a link, which goes on to request personal information to "verify eligibility." When you click on links to view or redeem your prize, you may also be unwittingly downloading malware. The malicious software can continue to collect more personal information and track your logins and other internet activity.
Why this scam works: Everyone loves a discount, and the attraction of winning a prize is strong.
Remember: You can't win a lottery that you never entered. However, a scammer can create advertising that appears to be personal to you. Be wary of anyone that you don't know asking for your personal information, especially your banking details.
2. PLAY THIS GAME!
We've all seen friends on social media participate in games like, "Check your IQ" and "What is your Pirate Name?" These games may ask for your age, date of birth, marital status and zip code. They may also solicit other personal information, such as what street you grew up on or your pet's name. Criminals could use these details to create a profile on you to commit identity theft. These scams may ask for your phone number to receive results. This can quietly enroll you in services that obligate you to monthly charges.
Why this Scam Works: Most of us look for ways to interact with others and receive personalized feedback. Once a friend participates in this activity, there is peer pressure for other friends to play along.
Remember: Never enter any personal information on social media, even your phone number. While many games may be harmless, many others may be gathering information for nefarious purposes.
3. IS THIS REALLY YOU IN THIS PICTURE?!
This is a variation of a phishing scam that you may receive as a message in your social media app. It may also appear in your feed as an advertisement that looks like a message directed just to you. Variations might be, "I can't believe what he said about you!!!" or "Did you mean to say this out loud?" Your protection instinct kicks in. You click on a link that downloads malware, and/or presents a login page that looks like the social media site. Thinking it is legitimate, you enter your username and password. Now the criminals have your login, which provides access to your profile and everything you have posted on the site.
Why this Scam Works: Anyone who has interacted on social media has a fear that they'll accidentally post something unintended. Even more compelling is the thought that someone who may want to do harm will post something embarrassing or confidential.
Remember: Don't click on links in social media. If you receive a message and can't verify the source, don't click. If it looks like it's from someone you know, contact that person to verify it’s not a scam before clicking. And make sure your settings only allow your connections to message you.
4. SEE WHO IS LOOKING AT YOUR PROFILE!
In this scam, an offer may be presented to download an "Add-On" that shows you who's viewing your profile. The scam may redirect you to a survey or an online registration for a purchase. This allows the criminal to gain access to your personal enrollment information and your credit card data.
Why this Scam Works: We all have curiosity and a desire to be liked.
Remember: If you are redirected to a page, make sure the URL is legitimate. Check the product offer outside of your social media session to ensure it's legitimate and there are no scam complaints.
5. YOUR ACCOUNT IS BEING CANCELLED!
Tell an avid social media user that their account is going to be cancelled, frozen or removed. Then watch the panic set in. Criminals count on this reaction. A normally careful person forgets the lessons of internet safety in their haste to prove that this action isn't warranted. If this happens, it may result in you unwittingly providing information to criminals posing as social media administrators. In reality, you may be giving up personal information like your name, address, SSN, credit card information, and login information.
Why this Scam Works: Social media platforms are an important link to our family, friends, and business associates. The thought of losing data and control of this lifeline is scary to many.
Remember: Don't trust any message that claims to be from the social media administrator. Contact the administrator outside of the social media session to make sure the message is legitimate. And be wary of any message on any platform that seems to rush you to action. In your haste, you may make a bad situation even worse.
It’s important to maintain social media awareness. According to a report by the FTC, in 2019, total reported losses to social media frauds reached $134 million. Reported losses reached record highs of $117 million in the first six months of 2020, with no end in sight. Use this checklist to ensure you're protecting yourself and your family on social media, on the internet, and in person.
- Check your profile settings. Consider limiting the information you share with the world. Some of your information might already be publicly available. However, criminals can glean other details from your profile to patch together a clearer picture of your identity.
- Be thoughtful about sharing personal details online. For safety’s sake, wait a few hours or even a few days before sharing content that reveals your location. A few vacation photos could be just the invitation a criminal needs to enter your home while you aren’t around. Accept contact or friend requests with care. Decline friend requests from people you don’t know in real life. You never know who might actually be on the other side of your internet connection.
- Think before you click. Hover over the hyperlink to confirm its real destination before you click on a URL. We recommend that you visit only secure websites, beginning with “https” instead of “http.”
- Avoid phishing scams. Exercise caution when you receive a message (or text, email, postal mail, or telephone call) from someone you don’t know. Many criminals imitate celebrities, major corporations, financial institutions, or government agencies to lure you into providing confidential or payment information.
- Use public Wi-Fi with caution. When you’re using a shared wireless network, other people on that network may be able to see your internet traffic. This could open up your account information to unsavory characters. Avoid logging into confidential financial accounts and social media when you’re on shared Wi-Fi. Even if you’re using your own device, log out when you’re done.
Remember, you’re not in this alone. Your McCoy’s Smarter and Smart checking accounts include an entitlement to dark web monitoring, This service will alert you if your personal information or registered credentials have been compromised.