Saturday, October 3, 2015

How scam safe is social media?

Almost anyone I know has a Facebook account and why not, it is a great way to keep in touch with friends, share ideas, pictures, achievements and so on. But how safe is social media nowadays?  People using websites such as Twitter tend to share less personal information than those who frequently use Facebook and scammers exploit that fact.  What many people don't realise is that every bit of information is extremely valuable to scammers.  There is a popular belief that scammers are just after your passwords, pin numbers and bank account details.  This is not always so.  Scammers now trade personal details and any personal detail is of value, however small.  Marital status, number of children, date of birth, where you work, your likes and dislikes and so on...they are all valuable.  Let's explore why; if you randomly get an offer that is nothing to do with what you enjoy or have a weakness towards, it is very likely that you will gloss over it without properly reading it and discard it.  But if you get an offer that presents you with something you are passionate about, your attention will be directed towards it and it is more likely that you will feel excited about it.  This will, in turn, lead to less information processing.  The fact that we are so bombarded by offers through email means that it takes a special offer to get our attention and scammers now know this and are not afraid to put some work into getting to know you in order to scam you with what you are likely to go for. 

Many people think that Facebook is safe as you only share things with your friends and family that you added as friends.  This is true to some degree but you also share your details with pages that you like.   I will explore couple of popular ways that scammers use Facebook to get to your details. 

Taking identities of your friends

Have you ever received a request from a someone you already have as a friend on Facebook?  It is very likely that this is a scammer who has cloned your friend's identity and is now adding their friends in order to have access to their details on Facebook.  Always be careful of such requests.  Email you friend through old Facebook account to ask if they added you again and wait for a response or contact them via other means to ask.  Once you add this new account, all your information on Facebook is in the hands of the scammer.  Remember, even harmless details are now sold between scammers for profit. 

Fake competitions, prize draws, give aways  and raffles

This is something that is incredibly rife on Facebook.  Perhaps you have seen your friend sharing a status by a company advertising a give away on Facebook and all you have to do is like the page and share the status to be in with a chance.  Whilst some legitimate companies do this type of thing, large number of prize draws on Facebook asking you to share their page or status are fake.  Once you like the page, the page will have your details.  Be careful what you like.  By sharing the status you are giving your friends a feeling that what you are sharing is legitimate.  Scammers often exploit this as they know that a recommendation from a friend is likely to be perceived as credible.   So how you can tell if the page is real or fake.  First of all, look at the page without liking it.  If it is a large company such as Virgin, they are likely to have many followers, not just few hundred.  You can also put the name of the company in the search and see how many results come out and see what other pages with the same name say.  Finally you can search in Google for the giveaway and it is likely that you may discover if it is a scam that way.  

The worst possible thing you can do is click 'like' and 'share' on Facebook, without thinking or investing few minutes to cross reference information.  Scammers are then invited to your photos and your details and these often get used in romance scams or setting up profiles on Twitter or other sites.  Having just an access to your photos is valuable to scammers.  Often they save the whole albums, create fake profiles and scam other users (this is a popular technique in romance scams) and having lots of consistent photographs, especially with family and friends, adds credibility to a fake profile.   

Take time to check the information when you next encounter a prize draw or an offer, especially if it is extremely enticing.   You know the old saying... if something looks too good to be true, it usually is.  Often now, even if it doesn't look too good to be true, it could be fake. 

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