With the ability to reconnect with old friends, network, find new hobbies, share a laugh, join a movement, promote products and services, and more, it is no wonder why social media has become such a big part of our daily lives.
And while there are plenty of fun and productive ways to use social media, platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok have become popular hotspots for scammers who are after your private information.
While some scams may be easy to spot, social media scams come in many forms and are evolving all the time.
To keep you safe, here are five of the top social media scams and how to avoid them.
1. Social Media Phishing
Social media phishing occurs when a scammer creates a fake social media account to appear like a credible or established company. They will often direct you to a link, appearing to be a real company website, where they will ask you to enter personal information, such as a credit card number or social security number.
Common examples include:
- Requests for donations
- Requests to report vaccine side effects
- Quiz games, such as “what movie character do you look like?”
- High discounts on expensive items
The best action to take is to avoid any interaction with suspicious accounts. Many social media platforms also give you the option to report accounts and posts, which will help others from falling for the same scam.
2. Profile Hacking
If a scammer gains access to an account’s login credentials, they may send messages to individuals connected to the hacked account. These messages can include suspicious links that allow the scammer to gain access to your account or place a virus on your computer. They may also ask that you send them money and promise to pay it back.
Common signs of a message from a hacked account include:
- Receiving a message from someone you have not heard from in a while or would not expect to hear from
- Misspellings in the message
- A link that does not look normal. For example, it includes many random numbers and letters
- Promotion of a product or service that does not generally align with the individual in question
If you receive a suspicious request or link from someone you know, always confirm the request with the individual through another form of communication. If you cannot reach them directly, connect with someone close to the individual.
3. Romance Scams/Catfishing
In a romance scam, which can also be known as “catfishing,” the scammer creates a fake account on social media or a dating service. They then entice users with the promise of a relationship, but never seem to be able to meet, or live very far away. Once a relationship is developed, they often ask for money or hint that they are having a hard time. Some scammers disappear as soon as they receive money from a victim, while others will continue to request more money over the span of months or years.
Be wary of who you meet online and who you send money to.
Warning signs include:
- Poor or vague communication
- A profile with a few or no posts or images
- Account has few friends or connections
- Account was created very recently
4. Money Flipping
If you see a social media profile or receive a message promising enormous profits for a small investment, stay away! In a money flipping scam, the scammer will ask you to send them a small amount of money and assure you that you will receive a larger amount of money in return. Scammers will often use fake testimonials to gain your trust. If the offer seems too good to be true, it more than likely is.
5. Prizes and Giveaways
Scammers will masquerade as a company or lottery and notify victims that they have won a prize, even if they have not entered a giveaway or contest. People who have recently entered giveaways online are often targets as well. To receive the prize, they usually need to pay a fee, usually by wire transfer.
If you win a real giveaway or lottery, you will not be asked to pay money to claim a prize. If you recently entered a giveaway or lottery, research the official website or contact information and speak with the organization directly to confirm if you are a winner.