Social media users face barrage of scams and other threats: Internet Scambusters #718
Social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are meant to connect us with friends and family -- not crooks and spammers.
But they can do both anyway, unless you take action to thwart the scammers and con artists.
In this week's issue, we highlight the 8 key ways scammers will target you and the actions you can take to protect yourself.
Let's get started...
8 Ways Social Media Crooks Will Trick You
Social media networks like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have become a key part of everyday life for hundreds of millions of people.
They're a great way of keeping in touch with the activities of friends and family, but sometimes this blinds us to the reality that these networks are also traps for information and behaviors that lead to serious problems.
Many people don't take the trouble to adjust privacy settings on these networks to protect their interests, while others innocently give away important information about themselves and their activities that can be exploited by crooks.
It may be hard to believe but some criminals spend their days just scanning the likes of Facebook to look for vital clues that will open the way for them to commit crimes.
So, to encourage you to think twice and review how and what you post, here's a list of 8 ways social media crooks will scam or threaten you.
1. "Like" harvesting.
This is the practice of getting victims to "like," "share," or repost postings.
The usual bait is to pose as a well-known company offering the chance to win a big prize, often a classy car, to anyone who shares or likes the post.
The scammer accumulates thousands of followers and then sells the social media identity he created, complete with followers, to another company for their own marketing purposes.
Action: Most "share-to-win" postings are scams so just don't do it. If you do share, be prepared for your name to go onto a "sucker" list of potential scam targets as well as being bombarded by ads.
2. Fake "distress" calls.
By tracking your posts that give away information about where you are, crooks can pretend to be you and contact relatives, claiming to be in trouble in that location and in need of money.
In other cases, scammers pose as kidnappers. Because they have their subject's name and location, they can pretend to be holding that person for a ransom.
Action: With the wrong privacy settings, every time you post your away-from-home location, you are putting yourself and others at risk of becoming a victim of this scam.
On the other hand, avoiding posting this info can seem to defeat one of the ways social media keeps others in touch with your activities.
You can severely limit the risk of this scam by ensuring your privacy settings only allow selected people to see your posts. Ideally, exclude access to "friends of friends."
3. Burglarizing homes.
As above, when you announce you're not at home, you're potentially giving the all-clear to crooks to burglarize your home.
Action: Follow the tips above. But also ask yourself this question: Do you really need to announce every time you leave home?
If you do, make sure you have adequate security/alarms in place at your home.
4. Identity theft and cloning.
Providing information and photos of yourself makes it a cinch for crooks to pass themselves off as you.
Even if you use privacy settings to control access, they may still be able to uncover basic identity information and access your photos.
In some cases, identity thieves set up duplicate accounts in victims' names and then try to link up with and scam victims' friends.
Action: Obviously, tightly controlled privacy settings can help, but the main way scammers perpetrate this crime is through hacking into users' accounts via weak or stolen passwords.
Then they can access everything.
Use a unique password for each of your social media accounts and change them regularly.
5. Targeting vulnerable youngsters.
Young people can be naive and careless when it comes to online activities, with the result that we frequently read or hear about them being tricked into forming online relationships with criminally-minded people.
Action: Discuss the risks with youngsters you're responsible for and monitor their online activities.
They may not want you to "friend" or "follow" them but insist on your right to monitor their list of friends.
Watch out too for possible cyber-bullying. Check out our earlier issue, Internet Safety: How to Protect Your Child from Cyber Bullying, for more on this.
6. Phishing for sign-on details.
Most commonly, victims of this scam receive an email claiming there's a problem with their social media account and asking them to sign on using a link in the message.
This takes them to a fake sign-on page where they have to enter their account details, which may then be used for identity theft or spamming.
Action: You can avoid most if not all phishing attempts by never following links or clicking attachments inside an email.
Instead, go directly to the social media site and check your account details there.
7. Uploading malware onto your PC.
Scammers use fake links to products and services, often promoted as bargains or prizes.
When victims arrive at target pages, various tactics are used to get them to click on links that will upload viruses and spyware onto the users' machines.
Action: Always start by being skeptical about free offers and bargains promoted on social networks.
They may be genuine but by being skeptical you can look out for red flags like clickable links that may signal a scam.
Strengthen this approach by keeping your security software up to date so it can spot attempts to install malware.
8. Fake giveaways and jobs.
Free offers frequently pop up on social media networks -- some of them perfectly genuine.
But others require users to complete a survey or pay shipping and handling fees that far outweigh the value of the items.
Yet others suggest you've won a big prize or you're in line to land yourself a job based on things you've posted about yourself. But you'll be asked to pay fees to secure whatever is on offer.
Action: Simply don't ever pay to receive giveaways or jobs.
You may feel an initial shipping fee is worth paying but that may be just the start of a sequence of payment demands.
The sad fact is that probably thousands of people fall victim to these 8 types of scams every day.
Mostly, they may be relatively harmless, perhaps resulting in a flood of spam. But they can also be dangerous.
By following our recommended actions -- most notably by ensuring you set your privacy controls to the max -- you can eliminate most of the risk of a social media scam.
Alert of the Week
Is your car protected by a warranty? If so, hopefully it will have come from the car manufacturer or dealer you bought the auto from.
Otherwise your warranty may be a worthless fake, as thousands of victims recently found out to their cost after responding to robocalls offering them extended warranties.
Fortunately for them, the Federal Trade Commission stepped in, stopped the scam and recouped $4 million for over 6,000 victims.
But you may not be so lucky. Remember, robocalls are illegal. So are sales calls to consumers listed on the Do Not Call Register. So if you get a call offering you a warranty deal, it's almost certainly a scam.
Time to conclude for today -- have a great week!