There are over 2.95 billion people using social media worldwide, making social media one of the most popular online activities. This number projected to increase to almost 3.43 billion in 2023, meaning people today are more connected than ever before.
Social media has many positive effects and can be a good influence if used properly, but with so many users comes plenty of risks. The internet is a vast space and potential scammers, hackers, and thieves are eager to seize the opportunity to take advantage of vulnerable users who lack the proper software to protect themselves or are simply not familiar enough with the dangers of the internet.
Internet scams trick social media users into providing vulnerable information including their login information, passwords, credit card information, address, and more.
In this blog, we’re breaking down the top 5 social media scams you should be aware of so that you do not fall victim to a scammer.
Phishing is one of the most common tactics used by hackers to steal information from internet users and infect their hardware with malicious programming that could render it useless.
Phishing is the act of sending fake emails to a large number of recipients at random with the expectation that only a small percentage will respond. These emails consist of scams that attempt to trick the recipient into providing confidential information, like account credentials, to the attacker.
The email message usually goes like this: “Somebody just put up these pictures of you drunk at this wild party! Check ’em out here!”
This entices the user to engage with the email and click the link. They become alarmed and they immediately click on the enclosed link, which takes them to their Twitter or Facebook login page. There, they enter their account info — and a cybercriminal now has their password, along with total control of their account.
The user had no idea both the email and landing page were fake. That link they clicked took them to a page that only looked like their intended social site (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).
To prevent this, make sure your Internet security includes antiphishing defenses. Many freeware programs don’t include this essential protection.
False or Hidden URLs
There are several social media platforms that automatically shorten URLs, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google. In addition, there are several link-shortening websites such as Bitly that allow the user to input a link and the platform will shorten it. Link shortening is especially useful when attempting to meet a character limit on a social media caption or when including a link to a lengthy URL. These URLs can be jumbled with characters. Link shortening cleans it up while maintaining the source.
One of the most common social media scams is false of hidden URLs. Beware of blindly clicking on shortened URLs, which can appear on all social channels such as Twitter. Since they are shortened, the user may not know where the link is going to direct them to since the URL (“Uniform Resource Locator,” the web address) hides the full location. Clicking on such a link could direct you to your intended site, or one that installs all sorts of malware on your computer.
URL shorteners can be quite useful. Just be aware of their potential pitfalls and make sure you have real-time protection against spyware and viruses.
A catfish is someone who creates a false online identity and tricks someone into believing they are real. Catfishing is common on social networking and online dating sites. Sometimes a catfish’s sole purpose is to engage in a fantasy. Sometimes, however, the catfish’s intent is to defraud a victim, seek revenge, or commit identity theft. Perhaps they even intend to trick the person into giving them money.
Catfishing is very common in social media because it is easy to create a fake profile. People take images they find online and create a fake email to set up their account. They can make their account look very convincing and form a connection to the victim, who tends to be vulnerable in the online space. Once they are hooked, the catfish can conjure any story in order to get what they want, such as money, credit card information, etc.
How to spot catfishing:
- The person is too good to be true or in a glamorous profession.
- There are inconsistencies in the person’s profile.
- The person is in a rush to move the relationship along.
- They won’t meet you in person.