Social Media Scams: How to Spot and Avoid Them
You have come across those popular social media quizzes that promise to tell you your silent film villain once you answer a set of questions. Sometimes, it comes as silly pass-time entertainment, and you go ahead to answer the questions. After all, the quizzes are just a harmless collection of factual information from your past. The seemingly harmless games ask you for details like:
- The name of your first-grade teacher
- The first city you lived in
- The first job you got
- The first car you drove
- Your first-ever concert to attend
What you fail to realize is that these questions are not as harmless as they look. In any case, many social media questionnaires created for fun are from hackers to steal your identity. If you’re keen enough, you’ll realize that many of these questions are the same ones posed as security prompts for identity verification in various online accounts.
Cybersecurity experts warn against taking these quizzes, even if it’s just for fun. While you want to have a good laugh at the end of it, the truth is that it’s the hackers that will end up laughing at you. You are taking the bait and risk exposing your data to have it stolen or compromised.
How to Spot Social Media Scams
Social media scams are creative designs by scammers, which appear genuine to entice you to fall into their trap. They use official brand logos, fake Terms and Conditions, and often include a link where you’re supposed to enter your details. Unknown to you, when you click on these URLs, your data is transmitted to third parties.
It also triggers the share function to your connections, which sometimes is delivered with an added status message. Whoever receives the message is also likely to fall for the scam, as they will think the message is from a trusted source.
Fortunately, there are some easy ways to spot social media scams and protect yourself from falling into the trap. Here’s what to look for:
Scam Giveaways, Surveys, and Contests
Sometimes scammers will offer “amazing discount coupons” or “free gift cards” under the pretense of giving you some reward for some survey you completed. Other times, they will operate under the guise of bringing some business deal to a particular venue. What happens next is that they access details about your online accounts, which they later use for criminal purposes.
For example, they will prompt you to allow a Facebook app permission to access your account so that you can win the prize. A tell-tale sign is when the contest or survey is only advertised through social media posts yet doesn’t appear on the website of the associated party.
Scammers always pretend to be from a trustworthy or legitimate source, with enticing incentives that you find hard to resist. The first thing you should do to protect yourself from fake deals is to check the legitimacy of the promotion. Don’t fall prey, and don’t spread the scams by sharing the posts with others.
Suspicious or Unsecure URLs
If you’re unsure about a URL posted on social media platforms, don’t click on it until you closely inspect its legitimacy. For example, does it match the exact URL on the said company website? Sometimes such links lead you to a fake login page, where the scammer will be on the other end waiting for you to enter your details. Whenever you’re redirected to a login page, always recheck the URL details before giving away your credentials.
Poorly Written Posts
Another tell-tale sign of social media scams is poorly written posts. Since the scammers are in a hurry to produce the posts, they hardly have the time to spell check or correct grammatical mistakes. In some cases, the errors are because the scammers have a poor command of the language. However, a majority of the mistakes are strategic and intentional.
One such indicator or a poorly written post is one written in all capital letters. A genuine organization would never let messages go online full of errors without undergoing internal scrutiny.
Posts That Ask You to Share Content with Others to Win
Scam posts will sometimes ask you to share the link with your WhatsApp groups or contacts to win whatever prize is on offer. When the recipient clicks on the link you send them, they are directed to a site where they are asked to provide personal details to claim their winnings. Information requested sometimes includes your name and phone number, but they may sometimes also ask for your residential information and payments via mobile money to receive the prize.
Sharing such links only serves to widen the net of potential targets who may become victims of the scamming tactics.
How to Avoid Social Media Scams
Strive to stay safe whenever you’re on social media or when using the internet. Here are some tips to keep you safe:
- Avoid deals that sound too good to be true.
- Avoid clicking on suspicious links and always inspect the URL.
- Check for branding inconsistencies, for example, the brand logo, and colors
- Avoid sites or links that ask for your personal information if you don’t know their source
- Only fill questionnaires from reputable sites
- Avoiding filling in your account passwords on online forms
- Be wary of apps that convert your face into a cartoon character. Facial recognition is a security tool that hackers can take advantage of to cause havoc.
- Contact companies through their trusted and verified channels at all times.
If your online accounts are hacked:
- Change your passwords and activate multi-factor authentication on all your online accounts because you never know which ones the hackers accessed.
- Set up credit monitoring and notify your financial institutions if any of these accounts are hacked. Ask them to monitor the accounts for any fraudulent activities. Remember that cybercriminals can patiently wait until you forget about the attack for them to strike. Don’t think everything’s clear as yet if they don’t cause havoc in the first month.
- Let an IT expert inspect all of your devices. Take note that sometimes scammers will set up sites that seem affiliated with your phone’s manufacturer. In other cases, they can set up phone numbers and disguise them as technical support helplines. Always opt to take your devices to a physical repair shop and have someone do the work for you.
With all the rising cases of scams and cybersecurity threats, it’s time to enhance the security of your devices. If you need help setting up security measures for gadgets and your online accounts, reach out to Menark Technologies today.