New social media platforms seem to crop up all the time. The media move at the speed of information, and it seems like overnight, the most popular apps went from complete unknowns to must-haves. Each new technology offers something fun and unique to users, which is why the popularity of these apps has attracted so much attention.
Some of that attention has come from people with malicious intent. Scam artists have developed some cunning scams to harvest data, spread malicious software and commit identity theft.
Make no mistake: Social media fraud is big business. There’s a lot of money to be had (and lost) from illegitimate social media use. Let’s take a look at a few of the most common schemes.
The Fake App: You get an invitation to install an app that will give you instant likes and shares on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. The application does nothing, but buried in the user agreement is language which allows the app to broadcast messages without further permission. A scammer uses the app to make your profile broadcast links to phishing sites and other malicious webpages.
The Hidden Charge: A fun personality quiz pops up in your news feed and wants to use your cell number to text you the results. You enter your phone number, and unknowingly sign up for a $9.99 a month “service,” which you won’t hear about until your next cellphone bill. Removing the charges will prove difficult, and stopping them from recurring will cause hours of frustration.
The Emergency Request: A friend sends you a message saying he’s on vacation and he’s had their wallet stolen. He needs money to get back home. Being the generous person you are, you send him money by following instructions he provides. When you next speak to your friend, he has no idea what you’re talking about. He didn’t send the request; a hacker compromised his social media presence and used it to spread the scam.
The Lottery Winner: You may have seen stories on your social media feed about generous lottery winners who promise a share of their winnings to the first 1,000 people to share their good news. What you don’t see is people donating money for “postage,” or having their email addresses used to spread scams. Needless to say, the money never comes.
Profile Spy: Facebook or Twitter apps promising to let you see who’s been looking at your profile are another popular road for scam artists. The app will get permission, through the install process, to send messages to your friends, access your login information and post links to your profile. Any information the app provides you will be inaccurate and useless.
Identifying these schemes is half the battle. Thwarting them, then, is as easy as not doing whatever it is they want you to do. If you want to raise your social media security level, here are some steps you can take to protect your personal information.
1. Don’t install any social media application that can make posts to your feed, access your account information, or see your friends list. That way, your name won’t be the reason someone else clicks a malicious link.
2. Don’t enter your credit card information on any service if you don’t intend to buy something. Not only will this keep you safe from scams, but it will also help cut down on impulse purchases on reputable websites.
3. If anyone sends you a request for money through email or social media, get in touch with them through another means. Confirm they are in need, then send money via a service you know and trust.
4. Change your social media passwords every six months, at least. Use complex passwords that don’t contain information in your profile. Make sure someone can’t answer your security questions with information you put out there.
Social media has made the world smaller and helped bring people closer together. It’s now possible to keep up with friends who are all around the country and the world, while sharing cool experiences and stories with new, exciting individuals. At the same time, it’s also exposed us to some new dangers. Keeping up with the latest scams helps make you a more responsible social media user and will make the world a little safer for all of us.