How to Spot Social Media, Email and Internet Scams (infographic)

Internet users love social media. Americans have an average of 7 social media accounts.

It’s a place where they can cultivate a persona and interact with friends and family. The most popular social media sites in 2019 are Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Facebook has reached 2 billion active users, Instagram has 1 billion and LinkedIn is gaining momentum with 590 million users.

With so much social media use, it’s important that we are teaching proper safety etiquette. Trusting strangers online and revealing too much about yourself can lead to dire consequences. In addition, trusting people you think you know without knowing the signs of a hacked account can be dangerous. These sites are ridden with bots and hackers that are trying to trick you.

These scammers are out to get individuals as well as businesses. Because of internet fraud, both individuals and businesses have lost over $100 billion. In 2017, 45,811 scams were reported in the U.S. by the Better Business Bureau, and in 2018 that number rose to 48,369 scams.

To help protect you from popular social media schemes, Panda Security has an infographic on social media scams and how to spot them. Browse through to make sure you know all the tips and tricks that will keep you safe online.

1. Lottery and Free Gift Card Scam

Everyone wants to be a winner and scammers use this to their benefit. Oftentimes there are posts on social media claiming to give out free gift cards to popular stores like Starbucks, Target and the Cheesecake Factory or announcing that you’ve won the lottery. Clicking them will lead you to a site that requires you to enter your info to claim the prize. The information required varies. Some ask for a phone number and charge you data fees while other require banking information to transfer the funds and then they steal from you instead.

How to Spot a Lottery or Free Gift Card Scam

To spot a lottery or free gift card might seem simple, but these hackers have become smarter about how they go about it. First, it’s important to remember that there is no way to win a lottery if you’ve never entered it. Next, if it’s a gift card scam, be wary of giving the site your personal information. In both cases, never reveal your banking details.

2. Gossip Scam

This scam involves an ad that has an enticing headline. It could be something like “Steve Jobs actually alive, see photo!” or “Secret details about Michael Jackson’s death!” This type of scam plays on people’s fascination with celebrity news and their curiosity. When the person clicks, they are taken to a page that instructs them to download the latest Adobe Flash. Instead of downloading Adobe Flash, the website redirect the user and downloads a bot Trojan or other malware. This becomes a further threat to your computer and will slow it down or steal information stored on it.

How to Spot and Prevent a Gossip Scam

Gossip scams are easy to fall for because our culture has a fascination with celebrity news. You should be wary of these headlines and take a second to consider what you are clicking. Often times if you scroll over the link it will show you the source’s URL. If the URL is messy or looks suspicious, don’t click it. If you end up clicking on a link and are prompted to download Adobe Flash, be aware that it’s a fake page. If you do believe that your computer needs an update, download directly from the Adobe site.

3. Healthcare Scam

False medicare and social security ads have been everywhere lately. It usually involves someone offering services or requesting a change to an account. These companies offer services such as a corrected social security card with the person’s married name, a social security card to replace a lost card, a social security statement or a social security number for a child. These companies do a good job of hiding their false identity. They may have profiles that feature the Medicare logo to trick you. Most times their offerings require a fee when the original service is actually free of charge through Social Security.

How to Spot and Prevent a Healthcare Scam

Healthcare scams can be tricky because they play on people’s healthcare needs –– something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. To ensure that you don’t fall for one of these, note that they should not be contacting you on social media. You should also check and see if the service is offered with other providers. It never hurts to verify the information by sending it to the Office of the Inspector General Hotline.

4. Catfishing

Social media is often used for starting relationships and dating. Psychology Today reports that one in five relationships begins online. It’s estimated that by 204, 70% of people will have met their significant other online.

Those looking for love are a gold mine for scammers. They are already open to finding someone online and often times blindly trust strangers. Catfishing is a type of online harassment in which someone creates a fake identity online for the purpose of starting a relationship. Once the relationship is secure, they use it to scam people out of money or further harass them.

How to Spot Catfishing

Catfishing has many telltale signs. If you are considering online dating, be sure you consider these signs. To start, the person may be too good to be true. They could have a glamorous profession like a model or doctor that involves travel so they can never meet in person. There could also be inconsistencies in their profile. Maybe they post a photo where they look much different than past photos or their hometown doesn’t match what they have told you.

Usually when someone is catfishing, they are in a rush to move the relationship along. They do this so that they can get to their end result faster. Lastly, although they are moving the relationship forward, they won’t meet you in person. There is always some excuse or reason why they aren’t able to meet up with you.

5. Photo of You Scam

This form of phishing is popular on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. People receive a message in their inbox saying something like “Have you seen this photo of you??” or “Is what this blog is saying about you true?” When you click the message it redirects you to a page that looks very similar to the social media login page. Many people enter their information out of habit. By doing this, they give their login credentials to the hacker and the entire profile gets hacked.

How to Spot and Prevent a Photo of You Scam

Photo of you scams are one of the most straightforward, but people still fall for them because they want to defend their reputation. To avoid these, put your profile on private. This way, only your connections can message you. It’s also advised that you shouldn’t click any suspicious links (links that are messy or are unfamiliar). Lastly, any time you log in to social media, ensure that the URL is correct.

6. Account Cancelled Scam

The account cancelled scam is another phishing scheme that has become popular. In this scheme, you receive an email that says your social media account has been cancelled or will be disabled unless you take action. This action usually means logging in through the link they provide. The link leads to a false login page where they can obtain your information and hack your account.

This account cancelled scam works on a lot of users because they have so much information stored on the social site. Their profile is made up of photos and moments almost like a diary. They don’t want to lose these memories or have to start again with no connections.

How to Spot and Prevent an Account Cancellation Scam

To spot one of these scams, be sure that you don’t blindly trust a message that claims to be an “official message from Facebook”. If you do receive one of these, you can log in to your account separately and see if you have any notifications on the site or app. Beware if the request is rushing you to take action, this is their scare tactic. Overall, there should be no reason for you to release your account information via email.

7. The 419 Scam or Nigerian Scam

This is a scam that has been around for a long time. This originated in Nigeria, but has been adopted by scammers all over the world. This scam centers around a person abroad offering you a share in a large sum of money for helping them transfer the money out of their country. In order to transfer this money out, they will request your banking information. In one variation of this, they will ask you to wire money for the fees or taxes to transfer the money. Either way, you will lose money.

How to Spot and Prevent a 419 Scam

Keep in mind that if someone is offering your free money out of the blue, it’s probably too good to be true. Keeping your profile on private will help prevent these messages from even getting to you and will help you resist the temptation to help. No matter the situation, don’t release your banking details to someone you’ve never met.

8. Stuck Abroad Scam

This is another scam that’s similar to the Nigerian scam but it often more believable because it comes from someone you know. A friend or family member messages you saying, “I’m stuck in abroad and my wallet was stolen”. Please send money!” Usually someone has hacked into the person’s account or creates a profile to mimic them. They then reach out to all of the person’s contacts and ask them to wire money. This can be very lucrative for scammers if even a small percentage of the people wire money.

How to Spot and Prevent a Stuck Abroad Scam

If someone is stuck abroad, verify it’s them through other means such as the phone. They should be able to borrow a phone or use a hostel phone if theirs was stolen. You should never blindly wire someone money, even if you think it’s someone you know.

Another way to verify that the person wasn’t hacked is by looking at their recent activity on social media. If their feed or comments don’t match their typical diction, you should be extra cautious.

9. IQ Scam

Social media platforms, such as Facebook, have applications that lead to other apps. These applications or plug-ins feature games or quizzes. One popular quiz is the IQ test. Unfortunately this quiz is a scam.

Once you are done answering the questions it provides, you are prompted to enter your phone number to receive the answer. Those who do end up entering their mobile number are secretly subscribed to a text messaging service that costs $30 a month. This amount is small enough to go unnoticed so the scammer can gradually make money over time.

How to Spot an IQ scam

When using Facebook or other social media apps, be wary of the plug-ins you use. Many have default settings that give them full access to your profile information. You should also avoid giving a website your mobile number to receive quiz answers.

10. See Who Viewed Your Profile Scam

When scrolling through your social media you may come across a message the says “See Who Viewed Your Profile.” This is especially common on sites that are used for romantic purposes or business oriented sites like LinkedIn. This scheme convinces a person to click on a link, where they are directed to a fake login page. This is where the hacker can steal their login credentials. They might also be directed to a survey that collects personal data. This data can then be used against the user or sold to a third-party.

How to Spot and Prevent a See Who Viewed Your Profile Scam

This scam is a tricky one because it plays on people’s curiosity and vanity. They want to see who is looking at them. To avoid these, be wary if you are redirected to a page. Always check to make sure the URL is legitimate. In addition, always be cautious if you are directed to enter sensitive information.

10 examples of most common social media, email and internet scams

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