Sunday, November 3, 2013

Social Media Scams: 11 Tips to Fight Them

Scams are on the rise in social media
This guy's looking to scam you
Social media has come a long way and the more it grows the more it is fertile territory for scams and con artists.

Go to the urban legend site Snopes - and I highly recommend this site as THE best place on the web to check for any kind of scam or mischief – and enter the name of your favorite social network in the search box there. 

Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram chances are there are several if not dozens of scams related to that platform listed on Snopes.

How easy is it for scammer and other malicious types to target us on social networks?

According to the 2012 Norton Cybercrime Report - from the company behind Norton computer and Internet security software - says people on social networks are increasingly falling victim to online scams. The report says of social network users:

- Four in 10 have fallen victim to cybercrime on social networking platforms 

- One in six report that someone has hacked into their profile and pretended to be them

- One in 10 have fallen victim to a scam or fake link on social network platforms

- 36 percent have accepted friend or follow requests from people they don’t know

- Only half use privacy settings to control what information they share and with whom.

This is just confirms what anyone on social networks already knows: As social media attract more and more people and they spend more and more time there scammers see opportunity.

The scams can be the annoying, but harmless "you need to change your Facebook settings"-type messages or they can be malicious links that are innocently shared because no one bothered to check them.

For example, recently two very smart people I’m connected to both fell for the Facebook Graph Search scam that starts with this … 

"Hello to all of you who are on my list of contacts of Facebook. I would like to ask a favor of you…. You may not know that Facebook has changed its privacy configuration once again. Thanks to the new "Graphic app", any person in Facebook anywhere in the world can see our photos, our "likes" and our "comments". During the next two weeks, I am going to keep this message posted and I ask you to do the following…"

While does Graph Search make it easier for you to find content on Facebook it does not change your privacy settings.

So what can you do to protect yourself and your family on social media? Here are my …

11 Basic Social Media Safety Tips:

Keep your personal information private: Be careful what information you share and post online and with whom you share it– expect that people other than your friends can see it.

Don’t post information that would make you or your family vulnerable: This might include details such as your date of birth, address, information about your daily routine, holiday plans or the school your children attend.

Set your online social networking profiles to private: Never share your account details with others and regularly update your computer’s security software. Note: If you choose not to set some accounts to private remember to be extra cautious about what you share and who you connect with.

Grant access cautiously: Apps often allow you to sign in via Twitter or Facebook, but in so doing are you granting unknown people access to your account? One small safeguard is to Google any app by name before clicking through. If there is trouble with an app chances are someone has posted about it.

Practice good password security: Use strong passwords (minimum of eight characters with a mix of uppercase and lowercase characters and at least one wild card character such as a dollar sign or an ampersand, for example). Change your passwords regularly and have a different password for each social networking site so that if one password is stolen, not all of your accounts will be at risk.

Try not to access social networking sites on public computers: Use your own computer or smartphone instead of the computers at libraries and other public places. Your login information can be intercepted.

Only "friend" real friends: Don’t accept a friend or follow request from a stranger - people are not always who they say they are and the best way to keep scammers out of your life is to never let them in. Likewise don’t answer social media messages or even cellphone texts from people or numbers you don’t recognize.

Use Google: Google yourself at least once a month search for your name and your own variations of it (i.e. “Jonathan Smith” and “Jon Smith”) and also use Google alerts on your name and family members’ names so that you get an email notification when your name crops up on the web. This can be an invaluable early warning that someone else is pretending to be you.

Be ultra cautious about any request for money even if it appears to be from a family member or a good friend. If you receive such a request, contact your friend via another means to check the request is genuine before responding. Do not use any of the contact details in the message.

Click with care: Never click on suspicious links on social networking sites – even if they are from your friends. If the link is from a trusted friend or has an identifiable URL you should be OK.

Educate your children on the dangers of social networking scams. Younger social media users may be more computer savvy than you, but they can be blissfully unaware of the dangers of identity theft and digital scams.

So, what do you think? Will you start being more careful with your information on social media? Will you encourage others to do likewise?

Possibly related posts:
Facebook’s next big privacy change is still coming
10 Tips for Social Media Beginners