How to Spot a Social Media Scam

It’s hard to avoid social media these days. It is literally everywhere. With millions of users on each of the various platforms, you are sure to come across some scams from time to time. Armed with some knowledge, and a little common sense, you can avoid being a sucker and falling for one.

Too Good to be True

You know the saying, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” Still, people fall for too good to be true scams all the time! The ones I see all the time are that someone rich or some huge corporation is giving away such and such amount. It is super tempting to click on this, but most likely it is not legit. A great way to avoid these possible scams is to go directly to the source. If the scam claims that Disney is giving away a cruise, go to Disney’s official page, if they have posted about the contest or giveaway, then congrats! It’s legit. You can usually tell official pages by a checkmark by the business name. If there isn’t a checkmark, check a number of followers it has. Disney has a lot more followers than a few thousand. It should be a huge red flag if the follower count is really low. So, no, Walmart is not giving $25 gift cards to all of its followers that share a specific post, and Mark Zuckerberg isn’t going to pay you to help make Facebook better.

Know Your Friends

Another scam that happens online is definitely a tricky one. The scammer will take the profile picture of one of your friends, and then request you as a friend. You definitely know the person, so you accept. The only problem is that you are already friends with the legit user, and this person is not who they say they are. If you get a friend request from someone you think you are already friends with, try to go to their profile. If it says you are already friends, notify them so they can report the impersonator. Once the scammer has you as their friend they can glean a plethora of information from your profile, or trick you into installing a virus, or get you to send them money, since it came from a “friend”

Get Rich Quick

The internet was made for “get rich” schemes, and social media is just ripe with people who want to capitalize on your lowered defenses. While this goes along with the “too good to be true” category, it deserves its own section. In the previous segment, we warned you against contests or giveaways, or free gift cards that give you the impression that there is no harm in sharing “just in case” it’s true. The other warning we have for you is trying to get rich through social media. If you have to purchase an initial starter kit to show you how to get really wealthy just through using social media, run far away. Do not give your credit card information to any place or person that promises untold wealth, but no specifics on how you actually get money.

Reveal Too Much

A lot of these online quizzes or endless lists of personal questions include the exact questions you might be asked as a security question for an online account you have. If nothing else, it gives scammers ammunition to make more personalized attacks that are easier to fall for. When you give an application or quiz access to any part of your social media account, you could be opening the door for further attacks. Stop posting your “elf name” featuring your first pet’s name and a street you lived on. Those are two questions that could EASILY be security questions for your online bank account, and you just told everyone the answers.

The main takeaway is that if it doesn’t feel right, it most likely is not. Go with your gut most of the time, and you should avoid the majority of scams, but following these can help with those that your gut might miss.