Social media scams: 6 scams to avoid in 2022 + red flags to watch out for
January 28, 2022
You might spend a lot of time on social media, checking Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the rest several times a day. But passing the hours on social media can also expose you to potential social media scams. That’s why it’s smart to know how to recognize social media scams and take steps to avoid them.
Con artists have long used social media sites to scam victims, raising the risk of identity theft. Sometimes, they'll trick you into giving up your personal and financial information, information that they can then use to take out loans in your name, apply for credit cards using your information, or access your online bank or credit card accounts.
Other social media scammers might use Facebook, Twitter and other social sites to trick you into sending them gift cards or money, often promising that you've won a contest or raffle and that you need to pony up some funds to collect your winnings.
Some criminals are more old-fashioned: They'll study your Facebook posts, Instagram photos, or tweets to determine when you're not home and where you live. You might then return from your weekend getaway to find that criminals have ransacked your house.
Fortunately, you can avoid some of the more common social media scams with just a bit of knowledge and care. Here are our recommendations for avoiding the social media scammers in 2022.
1. Data breaches
Data breaches are common. Cybercriminals might hack the computer systems of a major retailer and then steal their customers' personal information. Or they might break into the medical records maintained by healthcare providers, snagging the personal treatment histories of patients. They might even steal your credit card information after hacking major banks and financial institutions.
Social media sites aren't immune to data breaches, either, with hackers often targeting the big names of the business, sites ranging from Facebook and Twitter to Instagram, Pinterest and TikTok. In 2021, for instance, Facebook suffered a data breach that exposed the personal information of more than 500 million users. LinkedIn last year said that it, too, had been hit with a data breach that also exposed the information of nearly 500 million users.
If cybercriminals hack into your favorite social media sites, they might be able to snag the personal information listed in your accounts. These hackers can then use this information to break into your online credit card or bank accounts or take out loans or credit cards in your name.
Our tip: Unless you don’t create accounts at any social media sites, there’s little you can do about data breaches at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn. But you can be vigilant about protecting your finances.
This means scanning your online bank accounts and credit card accounts regularly looking for suspicious transactions, or considering a credit-monitoring service. Order your free credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com, too. These reports will list any loans or credit card accounts in your name. By checking your reports, you’re more likely to uncover loans that you don’t remember taking out or credit card accounts that you don’t remember applying for. You can then act as quickly as possible, alerting banks and financial institutions of these fraudulent activities before scammers inflict too much financial damage.
2. Social media scraping
Do you overshare on social media? If you do, you might be exposing yourself to cybercriminals.
Scammers scrape social media sites looking for personal information. And because so many of us provide a lot of this — often posting our birthdates, names, marital status, headshots and location — online, these fraudsters can nab plenty of personal info on us. They can then either use this information to access our online financial accounts or take out loans and credit cards in our names.
Our tip: Post as little personal information on social media sites as possible. And never post photos that give away your address or personal information. An example? Many people who received their COVID-19 shots posted photos of their vaccine cards on social media sites. Here’s the problem: Your vaccine card could contain important information — such as your full name — that hackers can use to steal your identity. When posting on social media, vague is better: You don’t want to give cybercriminals too much to work with.
3. Giveaway or contest scams
How often have you visited your favorite social media site to find a post advertising a lottery or giveaway? All you have to do is “like” the post or comment on it to enter the sweepstakes for the chance to win a free gift card, a month’s worth of free food delivery, or $500 worth of free clothes from a favorite retailer.
It sounds good, right? Unfortunately, these social media giveaways are often scams. The people creating them aren't giving away any real prizes. Instead, they're like-farming.
The Better Business Bureau says that the scammers behind these fake sweepstakes want to collect enough likes and shares to spread the word about their posts. Once they've earned enough, they'll edit the post so that it now contains a link to malware that will automatically download onto the devices of victims who click onto it. Because the posts have been liked so often, they're more likely to nab potential victims. And all those likes on the post might convince these victims to click on a post that they might otherwise ignore.
Other scammers might erase the post's original content once they've earned likes to attract a high number of views and replace it with ads for illegitimate or illegal products.
Our tip: Be careful when liking or commenting on social media posts advertising sweepstakes or lotteries. To make sure a giveaway is legit, look for its list of terms and conditions. Legitimate social media giveaways will include the contact information of organizers, a list of rules you'll need to follow to participate, and a list of requirements you'll need to meet. If you can't find this information, it's a red flag for a likely scam.
Giveaways that ask you to complete too many tasks — such as commenting on several posts, following multiple accounts, tagging brands and liking multiple posts — might be examples of like-farming. Avoid these.
4. Card popping
Be wary of fraudsters who run ads on social media sites — or contact you directly through them — offering you the chance to make quick money if you'll allow them to first deposit checks into your bank account.
Often, these checks are stolen from mailboxes or other sources. Other times, there are no checks. But the criminals promise victims that once they deposit these checks, the victims will receive a share of the money.
Of course, the scammers ask victims to provide their bank account information so that they can deposit the checks. When victims do this, the scammers will steal the funds in these bank accounts and disappear. Sometimes, the criminals do deposit stolen checks in victims' accounts first. This could make victims unwitting co-conspirators to fraud.
Our tip: Never believe anyone who says you can make fast money. That's almost always the sign of a scam. And never provide anyone with your bank account information. That's always asking for financial pain.
5. Credit repair scams
You know that having a strong three-digit credit score is one of the most important factors in whether you qualify for loans and credit cards at lower interest rates. Scammers know you know this, too, which is why credit repair scams are so common.
In this scam, con artists place ads on social media sites or reach out to you directly through them. They promise to boost your credit score — often by 100 points or more — instantly, if you just pay them to do so.
Problem is, no one can boost your credit score instantly. You must do the hard work to increase your score. This means paying your bills on time and paying down your credit card debt. There are no shortcuts here.
So those companies or individuals promising instant results? They’re scamming you. If you pay them, they’ll either do nothing and disappear or they’ll simply take the steps — such as ordering your free credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com and looking for errors — that you can do on your own for free.
Our tip: Never pay any company to increase your credit score. You can improve your score on your own for free. Simply pay your bills on time and throw extra money each month toward paying down your credit card debt. Anyone who promises that they can increase your score instantly is lying.
6. Money flipping
It’s easy to be tempted by get-rich-quick offers. Con artists know this, which is why money-flipping scams are so popular on social media.
In this scam, con artists will make a post — usually with a photo of cash — to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites promising recipients that they can make quick money with minimum effort. Recipients just must contact the poster to find out how.
If victims do reach out, the poster will tell them to fill a prepaid debit card with money and then share the card number and PIN with the scammer. The con artist then promises to "flip" this initial investment from victims into a much larger pay day.
Once victims provide these criminals with their prepaid debit card information, the scammers behind these posts drain the card of its funds and disappear. The victims are now out whatever amount they deposited onto their debit cards.
Our tip: There's one big clue that you are falling for a money-flipping scam: The person you have contacted through social media is asking you to deposit money on a pre-paid debit card. Legitimate investment services will never ask for this. And they'll certainly never ask for your debit card's number and PIN. If an "investor" asks you to make your investment on a prepaid debit card, cease all communications: You are dealing with a criminal.
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Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. NortonLifeLock offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about cyber safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.
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