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How to Detect and Avoid Social Media Scams

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Social media has been a lifeline for many people while the pandemic causes us to socially distance from people. However, this presents an opportunity for scammers, too, as reported by the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network.

Scarily, they reported that the number of people losing money after getting scammed on social media has tripled in the last year. A big increase in the second quarter of 2020 ties in with the global outbreak of the pandemic. People are looking for ways to avoid identity theft or other scams that originate on social networks.

What Are Social Media Scams?

There are many types of social media scams, and many may stem from things you hadn’t even considered. The term is quite vague and can cover pretty much any form of scam that originates on social networks.

Types of social media scam include:

●  Phishing scams. Links sent to you via messages or published by copycat pages may go to websites that are not legitimate or secure. You might have accidentally given up personal details or even parted with money.

●  Romance scams. Some scammers go in-depth. They may pretend to be someone else and try to convince you to send them money, playing on any feelings you might have. They may do the same thing to collect details from you to sell or use for credit card applications and the like. Dating apps have made romance scams even more prevalent.

●  Quizzes. When you see quizzes on social media, you might think they are harmless. How bad can a quiz about “which superhero you are” really be? Well, these are often methods to get you to put personal details into a website and they can be used maliciously.

●  “Stuck” scams. People might use social media as a way to pretend to be a relative or friend. They then pretend to need help because they are stuck abroad or in financial trouble. This can be done via an account takeover if they get your password, and it can lead to concerned relatives sending money.

Unfortunately, these are just some of the types of scam. In the constant battle against identity theft, we keep seeing more and more inventive techniques to steal your information to make a profit.

How to Protect Your Privacy and Avoid Identity Theft

Luckily, there is a lot that you can do to try and protect yourself against identity theft and social media scams. Following a few simple tips can go a long way to protecting yourself against scammers who are trying to get to your information. Don’t forget that people don’t need your card details to scam you. Identity theft is far more complex, and they might make a lot of money applying for finance in your name. This can lead to years of complications.

● Use software. Antivirus software can help if you do end up on a malicious website. There are also software solutions for identity monitoring or even managing your passwords.

● Don’t overshare. On social media, a lot of people share details that they really shouldn’t. Do you know and trust everyone seeing your information? The answer is probably “no”. Don’t share personal details.

● Use secure passwords and don’t use them on the same site. Special characters and unguessable passwords are a must. Don’t make it easy for someone to access your accounts, it is also advised to use two factor authentication. You can even use a secure password manager if you struggle to keep track.

● Verify who is contacting you. If someone reaches out, you should always check who it is and whether or not they are legitimate. There are many things you can do to spot fake accounts.

● Be cautious about what Wi-Fi networks you use. Public and unsecure networks may provide a way for scammers to track your activity and steal details.

How to Report Social Media Scams

If you do end up experiencing a social media scam, you should report it to try and prevent the same thing from happening to others, and ensure that scammers get caught.

The first step is to report the scam to the state consumer protection office for your local state. They may alert you of steps you can take to try and get your money back or take action against scammers.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also collects scam reports. You can report a scam online with the FTC complaint assistant. They also offer a phone line for you to contact during the day, 1-877-382-4357 (9:00 AM – 8:00 PM, ET). The FTC might not be able to follow up on individual scams, but they will look into patterns of scams.

It’s important that you take action, so that scammers don’t get away with it. Provide as much evidence as you can in the process of reporting the scammers.

About the author


David Lukić

David Lukić is an information privacy, security and compliance consultant at The passion to make cyber security accessible and interesting has led David to share all the knowledge he has.