Social Media: Scammers’ New Favorite Playground

Social Scams

Raise your hand if you’re spending a lot more time on social media platforms these days. That’s pretty much everybody, right? So, it’s probably no surprise that scammers are now targeting social media users in a big way. In fact, recent data from the Federal Trade Commission indicates that reports of people losing money to these scams has more than tripled. The good news? You don’t have to quit social media (like that would happen!) to stay safe. Here’s the rundown on some of the more common social media scams and tips for avoiding them.

Facebook and Instagram Pop-Up Ads

When consumers named a specific platform in their reports to the FTC, 94% of them called out Facebook or Instagram (which is owned by Facebook). And, it was authentic-looking ads on those platforms that hooked even some experienced digital shoppers. Here are some ways to spot the fakes:

  • Scrutinize the web address – Scammers often create realistic looking sites that mirror the real thing, and then change just a character or two in the URL so most people won’t notice the difference.
  • Don’t click on ads – Instead of clicking through a digital ad, manually enter the merchant’s website address and double-check to make sure you have each character entered correctly.
  • Search for complaints – Google the company name with words like “complaints” or “scam” and see if anything suspicious comes up.
  • Use a credit card to pay – If you get taken in by a fraud, you may be able to get a refund if you paid with a credit card.

Look for the Blue Checkmark

As flattering as it might be to receive a DM from Beyonce or Jay-Z, be suspicious if you get one. Lots of top celebrities are, themselves, targeted by fraudsters who impersonate them or people close to them. Often, this starts with a fake Instagram account and then a DM to individual fans and followers – sometimes simply asking to connect, and other times soliciting purchases of products or services. The easiest way to spot these fakes is to look for the blue checkmark that signals a high-profile Instagram user has been verified as the real thing.

“Opportunity” and “Helping” Scams

Lots of people advance their careers and develop great relationships that begin online, but it’s always smart to be s-u-u-per careful. Most of these scams begin with a simple message or friend request that seems harmless enough, but can end up costing you a bundle.

  • Don’t pay for an opportunity to earn money – People struggling financially due to the pandemic can be especially vulnerable to these kinds of pitches. Before you sign up to make some “easy” money, check out what the FTC has to say about these kinds of schemes.
  • Use your phone as a phone – If you get a message from an actual friend asking you to send money or other help, make a voice call and ask if they actually sent it. Most likely, their account was hacked.

And, no matter what the situation – online or in person — always remember Grandma’s wise advice: if somebody or something looks too good to be true, it probably is!

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