Fraudsters’ new favorite place to snare unsuspecting online users is social media. As questions of how social media platforms can be held accountable for protecting their user base from misleading information continue to rise, it is becoming more clear that hundreds of thousands of users are being exposed to fraudulent content with the explicit purpose of collecting information or money from well-meaning suspects.
These four social media scams are some of the most common that you should be on the lookout for to keep your information safe.
Online petitions became incredibly popular over the past decade or so, and most people have signed one of these petitions a time or two. But scammers now turn to social media sites like Facebook to use petitions to gather information from unsuspecting users. Some petition sites are run by people who expressly use them to harvest names and associated email addresses, which they then turn around to sell to other spammers and scammers. Before you sign a petition for a cause you support, do a quick search for the website you’re planning to sign it on to make sure it is a credible organization.
Faux genealogy scams
People are more interested than ever in discovering their roots and learning more about where they came from. But sadly, scammers use that curiosity to take advantage of people and collect information like credit card and social security numbers. What role does social media play in this? The fake websites might encourage users to share their link on their social channel or to send a sign-up link to other family members, assuring them it’s to help get more accurate results.
The heart wants what the heart wants, but sometimes the head needs to be the one in charge when it comes to taking on an online boyfriend or girlfriend. Romance scams happen when fraudsters impersonate someone else online, develop trust with the person they’re scamming, and manipulate that person into sending them money by claiming to have medical emergencies, making plans to visit (which they then cancel), or fabricating other stories. These catfishing-like scams have become so common on social media that the U.S. Army has an official page warning people against starting online romances with those who claim to be a U.S. soldier.
Social media has become a major platform for charities to spread awareness for their causes and solicit donations. But where there is money, there are scammers, and some use the guise of helping a good cause to steal money. Sometimes the scammer will pose as a credible, well-known charity organization and claim to be acting on their behalf (as was the case for the Make-a-Wish scam, which swindled around $20 million in the past). Other times, they will take advantage of high profile natural disasters to create websites for fake charities to solicit donations, like many did after Hurricanes Harvey and Katrina.
Social media is meant to be fun, but stay mindful while using it to avoid falling victim of a scam.