Social media can be a fun way to pass the time and keep up with friends, but there are some insidious ways that these websites can lead to identity theft. To better protect yourself against these possibilities, you need to equip yourself with the knowledge of what to look for in a scam. Here are some ways you can identify scams on social media:
- Chain letters. Chain letters are one of the oldest social scams in the book. How do you know if you’re looking at one? It will often promise unrealistic rewards for simply “sending it along to X amount of friends in the next Y amount of minutes.” Often times, these are more of a nuisance than a threat, but they can start a bad habit of being careless on the Internet, which can make you vulnerable to fraud.
- Links from a stranger. If you get a weird message from someone you don’t know, do not click on any links that are sent to you. Messages like this are often phishing attempts and those links can lead a criminal straight to your login information. For further protection, you should equip your computer with anti-phishing software.
- Pyramid schemes. Like chain letters, these schemes get passed around quickly and offer unrealistic rewards for little work. The most recent example of this is the “secret sisters holiday gift exchange” that promised 36 gifts in exchange for one, depending on how many people you pass the information along to. It’s a classic pyramid scheme structure, which is not only impossible, it’s also illegal in many states and can get you fined or imprisoned. For situations like these, it’s best to go with your gut. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Strange friend requests. It can be exciting to get a new friend request, but be selective with whose requests you accept. If you get one from a stranger with whom you have no mutual friends, decline it. A lot of scammers online make fake profiles, often with attractive images, and use that to lure victims. Often times, those who fall for the fake profile will get a message asking for money. It’s important to be wise online, and never give personal information or money to anyone on social media, no matter how convincing they may seem.
Because there are so many scams and fraudsters out there, it is vital for consumers to understand the signs of online scams, especially on social media where they can seem like harmless fun. Knowing the signs and what to look for can help reduce vulnerabilities to ID theft . Even if you’re very careful, falling victim to a scam is frighteningly simple, for further protection, you can invest in a credit monitoring service that can notify you of certain activity on your accounts that might indicate fraud.