The social media explosion has forever changed the way we interact with one another. In fact, everyone knows that a vacation, a dinner out or child’s milestone never really happened unless you post it on Facebook or Instagram.
But what most people don’t realize is that the advent of social media has generated its own brand of scams. And they’re as nefarious as they are widespread. Over the last few years, the numbers of social media scams have multiplied exponentially, with fake Facebook and Twitter accounts jumping by a full 100% in just a year.
There are several types of social media scams, but most involve some kind of phishing scheme component.
Here’s how it happens: Scammers troll your accounts and try to “friend” you. They might have received your contact details from a friend of a friend or through some other roundabout method. Or, they may create a bogus profile or clone the profile of someone you know in real life. Then they’ll get you to share personal information with them without you even realizing it.
Often, they’ll ask you seemingly random questions, like the name of your first pet, or your grandmother’s maiden name, and you’ll blithely provide them with the answers.
What you may not realize, though, is that you’ve just given away the security questions for your checking account password and login information. By the time you do realize this, it’ll be too late.
Other times, social media scams involve fake offers and promotions. You might click on a job offer, an incredible prize you’ve supposedly won or a get-rich-quick scheme. All you need to do to get your hands on the goods being offered is…share your personal information. Unfortunately, that’s all the scammers need to rob you of your identity – and your money.
In yet another scam that has us at CTCU really riled up, fraudsters will exploit your trust in your credit union to get your attention. They’ll reach out to you while impersonating CTCU and claim to have incredible rates on personal loans, cash loans or a similar product.
You might think the poster is really us, and willingly click on the embedded link and then follow their application instructions. Sadly, once the ball starts rolling on these scams, it’s nearly impossible to stop. The scammers might then empty your accounts, trick you into making upfront payments to qualify for the loan, or take out another loan in your name, leaving you to foot the bill.
You don’t have to be a victim to these scams. Read on to learn how to spot, prevent and react to social media scams.
How to spot a scam
Watch for these red flags:
- The poster is offering a deal, prize, job or scheme that sounds too good to be true.
- You’re asked to make an upfront payment for a job, prize or loan application.
- A reputable company uses a generic account, such as Yahoo or Gmail, to contact you.
- You’re told that you qualify for a loan amount that is more than you need.
- You’re urged to act immediately or risk losing out on the job, prize or loan.
- The scammer looks like they represent CTCU, but when you call us up to talk about the offer, no one knows what you’re talking about.
- You are asked to share sensitive information before you’ve actually applied for anything.
- A new social media “friend” keeps asking you random questions.
Preventing social media scams
Fortunately, preventing social media scams isn’t all that difficult. All it takes is a bit of common sense and some practical steps.
- Think before you click. Ignore anything that sounds sketchy or overly intrusive.
- If a lender has contacted you, check their legitimacy with the BBB at (859) 259-1008, 1-800-866-6668, or www.bbb.org.
- If you need to take out a personal loan from Cooperative Teachers Credit Union, contact us directly at (903) 561-2603, or through our website at http://www.coopteachers.com. This way, you’ll know it’s really us.
- Never share personal information online with someone you don’t know.
- Look for a publicly listed street address and phone number that corresponds with the name of any alleged “company” that has contacted you.
- Never agree to pay for a product or service upfront without being certain of its legitimacy.
- Check your social media privacy settings on a regular basis. They’re often changed without you knowing it.
- Never post anything that can be used to steal your identity.
If you are a victim
If you’ve been hooked on the social-media phishing bait, it’s important to do some damage control ASAP. Don’t let scammers win! Always use caution when online.
- Shut your computer. Before anything else, you’ll want to block the scammer from accessing your computer again. Log off your device and immediately change your passwords, using a different computer or mobile device.
- Put a fraud alert on your credit. Contact the three major credit bureaus; Equifax, Transunion and Experian, to let them know your identity has been compromised. This will prevent or delay any loans or lines of credit the scammer tries to take out in your name.
- Let us know. Here at Cooperative Teachers Credit Union, we want to do our part in stopping scammers in their tracks. By alerting us about a scam, we can watch your accounts for suspicious activity and refuse to honor sketchy charges. Also, if your case involved a fraudulent loan offer using our name, we’ll do all we can to take down the scammers.
- Alert the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). If you’ve been targeted by a scam, make sure to tell the FTC about it so they can do whatever they can to catch those crooks.
- Tell your friends. It’s equally important to let all of your friends know about the scam. Consider forwarding them the scammer’s bait in a private message so they know to ignore it if it shows up in their own social media feeds.
Your Turn: Have you ever been targeted by a social media scam? Tell us all about it in the comments!