How to Stop Scammers on Social Media
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As social media platforms continue to grow in popularity, the number of cybercriminals on them have becomes increasing prevalent as welllso. There is no shortage of them on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and even LinkedIn. Facebook has the largest user base, 2.9 billion monthly active users, while Instagram has 1.4 billion.
Since all these websites feature content, they are perfect stomping grounds for these criminals to input malicious links and other scams. According to the US Federal Trade Commission, in 2021, over 95,000 people reported a social media scam. Since social media encourages people to share information and connect with others, it offers prime opportunities for users to become victims of phishing attacks.
Of course, there are many benefits to having social media, such as the ability to stay connected to loved ones despite varying life obligations and geographical distances. You do not need to delete social media altogether to protect yourself, you can instead take sensible precautions.
Be careful about links you click
Clicking links, as well as filling out personal information at these links can result in becoming a victim of viruses, ransomware, and/or identity theft. Even if you do not fill out personal information, clicking the link can trigger a malware download. If you do not click them, these links cannot harm you.
Scammers will go to great lengths to convince you to click these links. They may send you fraudulent but genuine looking emails saying your account is locked, hacked, or something similar. Even worse is that these emails can come from family, friends, or colleagues (if they have already been hacked) encouraging you to click a link because it leads to a video, a gift card, or they may be asking for your help to get into their own account because "they have been hacked."
To mitigate these risks:
• Always look closely at the URL before logging in or typing in any personal information
• Never go to a login page or download something via email, instead type in the address in your search bar manually
• Be suspicious of shortened links like bit.ly, use an URL expander to check that they lead to where you think they do
Protect Personal Information
As we mentioned, social media platforms are designed to make it easier to share information and connect with others. This information can potentially put you in danger. Ask yourself if the information you are sharing online would allow someone to easily impersonate you. You can play it on the safe side by being selective about those friend requests, connections and follows you accept, as well as setting your posts to private and restricting access to your profile.
You can take it a step further and Google yourself to see what information about you is available. Anything that you can find is also information that a cybercriminal can gather. In fact, some of them are professionals and can probably find more information than you, yourself, can dig up.
Cybercriminals often post as co-workers or acquaintances since they know they are more likely to successfully get you to click a link, share information, or agree to a money request or retrieval. Sometimes scammers will even pretend to be businesses you frequent to gather your account details. To prevent this from happening, verify requests before acting upon them.
Call accounting or HR to make sure the request you were sent is legitimate. Another option is to login to your account after directly typing in the website URL to see if you have an outstanding balances or issues that are relevant to the email you received. Though this may seem like a pain, you will be grateful you took the five extra minutes to contact someone because it will offer peace of mind and possibly safety if it was an actual scam attempt.
Question Too Good to be True Offers
If an email or link promises an amazing discount, gift card, or other enticing offer that seems like it could be obtained way too easily, be cognizant. Things that seem too good to be true often are.
Some Key Takeaways:
• Be wary of short links on Twitter and Instagram.
• Research anything that presents itself as a free app or service.
• Limit the information you share and monitor both your personal and business accounts.
• Before accepting LinkedIn requests, check the person's profile thoroughly. Ignore the invitation if anything seems off.
• While using YouTube, do not click links that take you to other sites even if the video states that it has been removed for copyright reasons. This is a common scam.
Scammers rely on your having your guard down and play off your emotional vulnerability. If it seems like the other party is using enticements, threats, or a false sense of urgency, err on the side of caution.
Trust your gut instinct that things do not add up. If you are worried about seeming difficult or paranoid, remember that it is better to be suspicious of a legitimate request than for you to trust a scammer.
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