After a long day, you sit down on the couch, pull out your mobile device and open Facebook. That’s when you see it. A message from your best friend Nora telling you she’s on vacation in another country, she’s lost her purse and needs you to wire her $800. The message looks like it’s from Nora’s account, it has her name and associated profile picture. But is it Nora?
Impersonation scams like the one above are common on social media platforms. Scammers will hack into someone’s account and message their friends asking for money, hoping someone will oblige.
Or, perhaps you follow the hashtag #italy on Instagram. One day you may find you have a DM from someone with a link to what seems like cheap airline tickets to Rome. All of these are examples of common social media scams.
Here’s what you need to know to keep yourself — and your social media accounts — safe.
Common Facebook Scams
According to Facebook, scams on the social network happen when accounts or pages are hacked and you are tricked into providing money or personal information to the scammer.
Common Facebook scams include:
Romance scams: Scammers send romantic messages pretending to be divorced, widowed or in a bad marriage. They want to gain your trust so you will eventually send them money for flights, trips or visas. The conversations usually continue for weeks before they ask for money.
Duplication scams: Get a friend request from someone who is already on your friends list? This is a duplication scam. Scammers will friend someone, duplicate their account and friend their friends, hoping someone will either provide their personal information or money.
Free coupons or offers: These scams offer free coupons or highly discounted prices for things like vacations or cruises. All you have to do is use your Facebook information to log in to the site and claim your prize.
How to Keep Your Account Safe
- Never provide personal information to someone you don’t know
- If a friend messages you asking for money, call or email the friend to ensure they sent the message
- Check a page’s or message’s location. If you’re worried a page or person is trying to scam you, check the page’s location to see where it’s located. If you receive a suspicious message from someone, and they’ve linked a mobile number to Messenger, Google the number to find its country of origin.
- Be aware of offers that direct you to another page to claim a prize
Common Instagram Scams
Fake brand accounts: Shopping online, and via social media has become easier than ever. However, Instagram is rife with accounts pretending to be affiliated with brands like Nike, Gucci, Apple and more, which could mean you end up losing money or receive an item you purchased that’s lesser quality than what you’d expect from the brand itself.
Phishing scams: Remember the example at the beginning of this piece about the discounted airline tickets to Rome? Phishing scams like this are increasingly popular on Instagram. Whether it’s for deeply discounted items or a warning that your account is on a “hot” or “nasty” list, be aware of any direct message that encourages you to click a link to view something.
How to Keep Your Account Safe
- If you’re shopping via Instagram, make sure the brand you’re shopping from is verified (there will be a blue checkmark next to its name)
- Similar to Facebook, don’t give out your personal information
- Use different passwords for each social media account
- Don’t log in to your account on public wifi.