Top Social Media Scams to Avoid

Social media isn’t what it used to be.

Gone are the days of just posting pictures of your dog or vacation highlights. Now every time you log on, you are confronted with all kinds of memes, ads, and shared posts from your network and beyond. You might not realize that cybercriminals target social media sites for this very reason. We are more trusting of something a friend reposted than we are of spam email or a phone call or text.

To help you recognize and avoid a con or computer virus, we have compiled a list of the  most common scams that appear on social media:

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Social media sites make it easier than ever to stay in touch with friends, while reaching out to meet new ones. But, how well do you really know all of these people? The good looking person  who just sent you a friend request – and suddenly needs money — is probably some cybercriminal looking for easy cash. Think twice before acting; the same advice also applies, even if you know the person.

Chain Letters

“Send this this to the 5 people you love the most so they receive good luck” or “Retweet this and Bill Gates will donate $5M to charity!” In such cases, both the cause and/or the claim are false. These types of posts tend to be created for a couple of reasons; it could be a prankster looking for a laugh, or a spammer needing “friends” to hit up later. Many well-meaning people pass these fake claims on and the chain continues to grow. Be the one that breaks the chain and inform them of the likely ruse.

Hidden Charges

“What type of celebrity are you most like? Find out with our quiz! All of your friends have taken it!” If you think this is interesting, you may choose to enter your info and provide your cell number, as instructed. After a few minutes, a text turns up. It surprises you to learn that you are more like Angelina Jolie than Kate Hudson. However, the real surprise is in your next month’s cell phone bill; by responding to the quiz you have unwillingly subscribed to a service that charges $9.95 every month.

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“Somebody just posted pictures of you at this  party! Check ’em out here!” Faced with this situation, many people will act before they think and immediately click on the attached link. The link takes you to a fake Twitter or Facebook login page where you enter your account info. Very quickly, and without your knowledge, the cybercriminal has your login and password details, along with total control of your account.

 Shortened URLs

Shortened URLs are used everywhere on social media, especially Twitter, but you never know where you’re going to go since the URL (“Uniform Resource Locator,” the Web address) hides the full location. Clicking on such a link could direct you to your intended site, or if used maliciously, a website that installs all sorts of malware on your computer.

A couple of tips to help keep you safe when you encounter a shortened URL is to first hover over the link. You can hover over a link without clicking it and you will notice the full URL destination in the lower left corner of your browser. Also, specifically for Bitly links, you can simply add a + sign to the end of any Bitlink in your browser to be sent to a preview page instead of the destination page.

Another option to use fact checking sites to check the legitimacy of a site. Snopes.com is one of the best online resources to that debunks rumors and scams. TruthorFiction.com is another popular fact checking site that covers an array of topic but specializes in email hoaxes. Hoaxslayer.com is dedicated to combating spam and educating users about internet security issues.

In conclusion, social media sites that appeal to a significant number of visitors are going to attract the attention of the criminal element. However, if you take sensible security precautions ahead of time such as, thinking twice before you take action; use antivirus and anti-spyware protection,  you can defend yourself against these dangers and enjoy social media with confidence.

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