The Rise in Social Media Phishing Scams
When we consider phishing scams, most people associate phishing with links or attachments in email messages, not social media accounts and activity. To a phisher, social media offers a large pool of victims and an endless array of entry points. Reports about scams that started on social media have been increasing for years. In 2019, total reported losses due to these frauds reached $134 million. But reported losses reached record highs, climbing to nearly $117 million in just the first six months of 2020.
Read on to understand how social media phishing scams work and take steps to protect yourself.
What is Social Media Phishing?
Social media phishing is when attackers use social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to obtain sensitive personal information or click on malicious links. Social networking is all about interacting with people, and familiarity with social media platforms can cause you to let your guard down, making you vulnerable to a phishing attack. The information gleaned by the hackers includes social media account login credentials, credit card information, and personal information about you that can then be used to launch other scams and attacks.
Common Types of Social Media Phishing Scams
- Fake celebrity news: False celebrity news reports are a relatively assured way to get clicks but are also a guaranteed method to risk a phishing attempt or get a malware download onto your device. For example, “Ryan Gosling’s been stabbed!”, generally accompanied by an image or photo that seemingly verifies the claim.
- Confirm your email account: This is a phishing attempt designed to trick users into providing private information, specifically their email address and password.
- Facebook quizzes: They may seem like harmless fun, but swindlers sometimes use quizzes to pry personal data. Launching a quiz app may give its creators permission to pull information from your profile, offering hackers an opening to steal your online identity. And look out for innocent-sounding queries about your high school mascot, first pet, or first car. Con artists know these are common security questions that banks and financial firms use to protect accounts.
- Is that you in this photo/video? If you get a message like this with a link to purported online evidence of embarrassing behavior, repress your curiosity and hit “delete.” Clicking the link takes you to a site that mimics one of the popular social networks and prompts you to log in, a ploy for hackers to get your credentials and access your account.
- Your account has been canceled: This phishing attempt, seemingly from your social media provider, informs you that your account has been canceled to lure you into providing the scammer with your username and password, which they can then use to access more detailed information about you located on your social media profile.
How to Avoid a Social Media Phishing Scam
Here are some tips to help you steer clear of scammers on social media:
- Before you buy based on an ad or post, check out the company. Type its name in a search engine with words like ‘scam’ or ‘complaint’. You could also reach out to the organization, company, or brand to determine if the deal is genuine. Don’t do this by clicking on any links in the post you believe could be a scam.
- Never send money to a love interest you have not met in person.
- Do not click on links in posts, tweets, or direct messages unless you are 100% certain they are genuine and well-intentioned. Closely inspect any URLs you aren’t sure about. Does the URL look suspicious? Does it match the URL of the company website? Sometimes enticing posts on social media link to a fake login page, and when you enter your email and password, you’re giving those details to a scammer.
- If you get a message from a friend about a way to get some financial relief, call them. Did they forward it to you? If not, tell them their account may have been hacked. If so, check it out before you act.
- Don’t make it easy for scammers to target you – check your social media privacy settings to limit what you share publicly.
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