Social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are a place where you can record the good things in your life, and interact with people you don't get to see every day. However, scammers and fraudsters try to take advantage of unsuspecting people. Scammers use many tactics – some of them might look more innocent than you realize. Check out some of these common scams, and how to protect yourself.
1. Multi-Level Marketing Business or “Pyramid Schemes”
Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) is a company structure that focuses on selling its products to customers outside of the business, but they specifically emphasize adding new members to increase commission percentages. MLMs are similar to “Pyramid Schemes” as they create a chain of members that sell products and recruit together. These scams typically mention to join their sales team to “make enough money to quit your day job.” According to the Federal Trade Commission, “In the end, most people run out of money, have to quit, and lose everything they invest1.” Although they may look successful, avoid these scams to save your money.
2. Senior Photo Sharing Scams
Do you know a high school or college senior who recently graduated? Did you make a celebration post on social media that displays a photo of yourself from high school? Does it include your full name, high school, graduating year, or hometown?
Don’t be alarmed, but posting this key information can be a good opportunity for fraudsters. With your personal info displayed on the Internet, you may be susceptible to identity fraud or profile hijacking.
Anytime you create an account, most websites will prompt you to answer special Security Questions2. Here are some common Security Questions many websites use:
• Where did you go to high school/college?
• What city were you born in?
• What’s your best friend’s first and last name?
• What was the last name of your favorite high school teacher?
If your social media post addresses any of these questions, scammers could get ahold of this information and try breaking into your accounts, or use the information to create new accounts on behalf of you. Always think twice when displaying personal information online.
3. Key Information Quizzes
Similar to senior photo sharing scams, are key information quizzes. While scrolling on social media, you may click on a “fun” quiz. Pay close attention to the questions and answers. If a quiz asks you to type in your favorite food, the name of your favorite pet, or your favorite place to vacation, then you could be revealing your answers to Security Questions2.
On the other hand, the quiz site may ask you to input this information after the quiz. This method is also a red flag. Please avoid this common security scam to keep your personal accounts safe.
4. False Information
Information can spread quickly on the internet – regardless of how factual the news is. Posts like a “secret superfood that burns fat,” or how “someone in your area got rich quickly,” may cross your news feed occasionally, and they can be funny or amusing in how outrageous they are.
However, these links can be dangerous. Going to one of these suspicious sites can trigger any number of pop-up ads, all of which have the possibility of carrying malware. Visiting these sites, or even accidentally clicking on a bad link, can mean you’re downloading a virus or malware onto your computer. Stay informed and only consume news from trusted, reputable sources.
5. Fake Online Shops
Finding a great deal online is exciting, especially if you find products for a lower price than you would pay in-store. You might see ads on your news feed for retailer websites like Amazon and AliExpress, who allow you to buy items from many different brands all in one spot. But you can’t trust every online shop.
Some online shops may offer you products at an outrageously low price, sometimes even free. These typically require you to pay shipping and handling fees. In reality, these websites might be looking to take your card information and money. Always remember the classic saying, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”
6. Catfishing and Hijacked Profiles
Most people have some sort of profile on social media sites, and that means you have the opportunity to find and connect with people you haven’t seen in years. Unfortunately, fraudsters can try to take advantage of this. They can take the personal information from profiles, sometimes even photos, and pose as an old acquaintance or relative. Then, they contact you asking you to divulge information they can use to get into your personal accounts. They might even trick you into clicking malicious links and installing malware on your computer.
Scammers might try to use your friends’ and acquaintances’ real profiles by stealing their login info, known as ‘profile hijacking.’ It’s important to check profiles of people who want to talk to you, to see if their accounts look suspicious, and be aware of any strange or suspicious links.
What You Can Do to Stop Prevent These Scams
An ad blocker prevents harmful ads and content from showing on a website, and keeps you safe while you’re using the internet. It’s important you download an ad blocker from a reputable site, such as uBlock Origin or AdBlock Plus, and only give it permission to run while you’re using your web browser.
It’s fun to share what’s going on in your life to all of your friends and followers, but sharing too much information can put you at risk – such as when you’re traveling out of town on vacation. It can be a gateway for scammers to target you when you’re least expecting it, so it’s important you monitor what you’re sharing.
Alongside Ad blockers and limiting your personal information, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest cybersecurity tips and tricks:
o Be careful when using a public Wi-Fi network – Criminals can try to steal your information
o Use a secure network when making purchases or creating accounts
o Create and use a strong password
o With a strong password, criminals are less likely to hack your personal accounts. Learn more about the importance of strong passwords.
o Stay up-to-date on the latest scams and security news
The best way to protect yourself from potential fraudsters is to stay educated about common scams.
: Multi-Level Marketing Businesses and Pyramid Schemes, Federal Trade Commission
: The 10 Most Common Password Security Questions, Stumble Forward