Social Media Scammers Play Dirty

thumb_9415f9bcd76598f9c08127db1641b596Ever since the public has been logging on to the Internet, certain people have been using the Internet to take advantage of others. Whether it be through scams, viruses, malware, phishing, or a whole slew of other dangerous activity, cyber criminals have been very good at making Internet security an industry on its own. With the colossal popularity of social networks like Twitter and Facebook, miscreants are capable of targeting even more users than ever before. On top of that, their methods seem to be hitting people where it hurts. Learn how you can prevent falling into one of their traps.

Cyber criminals are adaptive – they target weak points and vulnerabilities not just in technology, but the vulnerabilities in society as well. Think about the infected attachments that used to get passed around in chain emails, or the Nigerian Advance Fee scams where a complete stranger would offer you ‘the sum of $40 million U.S. dollars’ if you send them a few grand to unfreeze their bank accounts. I hope that very concept sounds like hogwash to everyone, but believe it or not, folks fall for it.

Social Media scams work the same way; they target both a vulnerability in the technology and spread it by focusing on a human weakness. One recent example is the death of Steve Jobs – cyber-crooks took advantage of this unfortunate headliner and fabricated a fake Steve Jobs Charitable Foundation asking for donations to help young programmers. Other scams include offering free iPads, but the end results really just tricks you into clicking on a link and submitting your personal information. Other scams are designed to peak your interest with topics like discovering who is viewing your Facebook profile, or claiming that there are pictures of you or your friends here that ‘you won’t believe.’

Often, clicking on these links will spam your friends with the same message, which contributes in the spreading of the scam. The links can even take you to a site that can infect your machine with malware, or trick you into sharing private information with the scammer. On top of that, it can install an app on your Facebook account that will continue to hijack your account and spam your friends. The problem is when you see something posted by a friend, even if it is suspicious, your guard is down. This means scams like this spread faster than wild fire.

What to Look For

If you’ve clicked on a link posted by a friend and it just doesn’t seem to be what you expected, raise a flag. Be wary of offers to find out who’s been looking at your Facebook profile, free iPads (and other popular consumer electronics), or sensationalized content involving you (like messages referring to pictures of you or your friends from last weekend). These are typically going to be scams. If you aren’t sure, try strumming up some dialog with your friend before clicking. If they don’t know what you are talking about, chances are they are spreading spam posts without even knowing it. If someone sends you a link, ask them about it before just clicking it.

If you get friend requests from users you don’t know, check their location. If they are local, chances are they are legit. You might even be able to go one step ahead and Google their name to see if there is any information about them being a scammer. Granted, it’s terrible that we need to resort to these levels in a social environment, but it is better to be proactive.

Above all else, don’t ever share your personal information (social security number, credit cards, and passwords) when things seem suspicious. If it suddenly appears you need to log back into Facebook, you are probably being phished – a scam that makes you think you are providing sensitive information to log into a site, but really that data is being sent to a crook.

What to do When You are the Victim

If you think you’ve been scammed, go into your Facebook privacy settings and edit the settings next to Apps and Websites. Click the X next to any apps that you want to delete. You’ll want to go onto your profile and remove any posts that app has made and alert your friends to what happened, and share these instructions with them in the event they fell victim as well. Finally, change your Facebook account password. It wouldn’t hurt to check your antivirus and make sure it is running the latest definitions, just to be safe.

Social Network Safety Rules to Live By

  • Verify Facebook apps before you approve them. During the approval process (before you grant the app access to your account), the app will display the author’s name. Clicking on it should take you to the app’s homepage. Check for anything that seems strange, out of place, or unprofessional. You can also check user experience and even do a Google search to find out if it is a scam or not.
  • Don’t give out personal information (including your login and password). Always check the URL in your address bar to make sure you are on the official (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) website when logging in.
  • Be skeptical: It’s likely your friend doesn’t have embarrassing photos of you from last weekend, or has a solution for finding out who’s stalking their account on Facebook. When in doubt, a quick Google search should be able to confirm a scam.
  • With social media, a big part of the way scams and attacks get passed around is amongst trustworthy friends and acquaintances. Not everybody is mindful of security.
  • And the big golden rule that will provide you the best protection is to be mindful of what you click on.

Do you think you’ve been scammed?  Contact us at 905.763.7896 for assistance in recovery and future prevention.  If you are a Toronto business owner and would like help educating your staff on internet and social network safety and best practices, don’t hesitate to contact us!

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