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Disastrous Consequences of Scams in Social Media by Meriem Remali


Introduction

Billions of consumers worldwide are active on social media. These platforms open up many opportunities for scammers to connect with consumers, and the potential for harm is immeasurable. Scams on social media platforms have become a pervasive threat in the digital age, with far-reaching and often disastrous consequences for individuals, businesses, and even society. These scams take various forms, from phishing schemes and fake investment opportunities to counterfeit product sales and identity theft. The consequences of falling victim to these scams can be severe and wide-ranging.


What are Social Media Scams? How Do People Get Scammed on Social Media?

 

Social media scams are fraud committed on social networking sites. Scammers often create fake profiles, befriend innocent people, and send spam messages or links that lead to malicious websites. However, there are only several ways that scammers can use social media to target you.

Other tactics include:

·       Sending you malicious links that infect your devices with malware.

·       Running online dating scams and coercing you into sending money or signing up for fake investment platforms. (The last version of this scam, known as the “pig butchering scam”, has cost victims over $10 billion).

·       Posting ads to fake stores that steal your personal information or money.

·       Using social engineering tactics to trick you into giving scammers access to your social media accounts or sending them money and cryptocurrency.

·       Using surveys and quizzes to gather sensitive information that they can use to steal your identity.

·       Impersonating brands, celebrities, and people you know _and tricking you into giving them money or personal information.

Scammers can create endless fake profiles and ads, putting billions of social media users at risk.

 

 Types of scams

We have identified three main types of social media scams: 

1-      Impostor scams

Impostor scams, where scammers pose as brands, authorities or even friends to deceive victims, are the most commonly discussed type of scam in most countries. These were most frequently addressed by consumers in Spain (51%) and closely followed by Argentina (49%).

The most popular form of impostor scam, particularly in the Spanish and Arabic markets, consists of scammers impersonating the WhatsApp brand to promise downloadable add-ons, such as the ability to customise colours. Scams are often spread using compromised accounts, where a fraudster hacks into a genuine account and then sends out links to harmful downloads.

 According to the experts, consumers trust communicating with contacts via WhatsApp and are likely to open messages they believe are from genuine contacts. In the UK and US, the most talked about impostor scams are catfish and dating scams.

2-      E-commerce scams

E-commerce on social media platforms is growing. And Facebook Marketplace, Instagram ads, and ‘buy buttons’ embedded in social media posts aim to create a seamless marketplace experience for consumers. Unfortunately, this creates further opportunities for scammers to exploit consumers, with our research showing that e-commerce14 scams are particularly prevalent on Facebook Marketplace and WhatsApp.

E-commerce scams are rife in the emerging markets of Nigeria and India, whereFake vendors spread scams via social media forums and online marketplaces. These typically involve the purchase of clothing items, with consumers receiving far lower quality items than advertised or, in some cases, not receiving any item. Consumers have mentioned that these scams are occurring on Facebook Marketplace and WhatsApp.

 In higher-income economies like the US and UK, e-commerce scams typically involve tech goods like mobile phones or high-cost items such as cameras or event tickets. Interviews with consumer protection organisations indicate that the most common type of e-commerce scam is sending much lower-quality items than described.

3-      Finance and cryptocurrency scams

Finance and currency scams are the third most prevalent in the markets we analyse. This type of scam is most common in Nigeria, where they make up 21% of conversation volumes about scams. It is the least common in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where they represent less than 1% of social media scam analyses. Finance scams in Nigeria most often occur via WhatsApp and one-to-one chats – where scammers make direct contact with consumers to gain their trust and persuade them to invest.


What Scammers Can Do After Accessing Your Account 

 

The goal of some hacks and account takeover scams is obvious. Someone might want to take over your credit card or bank accounts to spend or steal your money. Or they go after your loyalty programs and e-commerce accounts to get at the points and store credit you have saved up.

 

While a social media account might not lead to a direct payout similarly, it can be valuable. Scammers can turn their access into profit by:

·       Blackmailing you: Depending on the platform, they might look through your saved messages and information and look for anything embarrassing. They might try to blackmail you into giving them money, illicit photos, or posting a video endorsing their scam.

·       Looking for your personal information: Your profile might contain a wealth of information, including your birthday, what school you went to and other details that they can then use to impersonate you or break into your other accounts.

·       Targeting your connections: The scammer might use your account to contact your friends, family and connections and trick them into sharing their personal information. Or they might send direct messages with phishing links or attachments that will infect the recipient's device with malware.

·       Spreading a scam: Scammers will use a hacked account to post about a great investment opportunity that "you" used to make money. Your connections might be intrigued and send money to the scammer or click on a malicious link. 

·       Embarrassing you: In a targeted attack, they might post embarrassing messages or photos they find in your account. 

·       Selling your account: Hacked Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts can fetch a pretty penny on the dark web.

·       Selling likes or follows: People can also buy likes, follows, retweets, streaming plays, and other social media interactions on the dark web. Some go for less than $5 per 1,000 followers or likes; the seller might use bots and stolen accounts to fulfil these sales. 

 

How to Quickly Identify a Scammer on Social Media

 

Their messages include a lot of grammar and spelling errors. Many scammers are not native English speakers and may use poor spelling, strange and unnatural language, or awkward formatting. Especially when someone's claimed background (where they were born, education, etc.) does not match how they write.

 

It is a brand-new social media profile with little content or few friends. The average Facebook user has around 200_250 friends. Regardless of the platform, if an account has fewer followers than that or is very new, it could be a scammer.

 

The profile belongs to someone with whom you thought you were already friends. Scammers create “cloned” profiles to impersonate your friends and contacts.

 

You receive a random message with a link. Never click on links or engage with unsolicited direct messages. This is how scammers trick you into going to fake websites or downloading malware into your device.

 

You are asked to send money online (via gift cards, wire transfers, payment apps, etc.) or invest in cryptocurrency. This is the “First” red flag that you are dealing with a social media scammer.

 

The person insists on taking the conversation off social media and asks you to text them. This allows them to bypass the security measures on most social media sites (or continue the scam if their account gets reported and banned).

 

The 10 Latest Social Media Scams in 2023

 

1.      Investment and cryptocurrency scams

2.      Romance scams

3.      Social media account takeover fraud

4.      Authentication code scams

5.      Social media ads promoting fake online stores

6.      Impersonator accounts

7.      Social media quizzes

8.      Lottery, sweepstakes, and giveaway scams

9.      Job scams on social media

10.  Other link scams like “Is this you in this photo/video?”

 

How to Stay Safe and Avoid Social Media Scams?

 

With billions of people using social media, it is impossible to avoid scammers altogether. But if you are vigilant and do your due diligence, you can stay safe and social at the same time.

 

Whenever you are using social media, make sure to follow these best practices:

·       Never click on pop-up messages or links from unsolicited, private messages.

·       Do not give out personal information unless you know the website you are on is legitimate and secure.

·       Adjust your social media privacy settings to ensure your posts are invisible to strangers.

·       Do not respond to strangers messaging you on social media.

·       Create strong, unique passwords for each social media account.

·       Use a password manager to securely store your passwords and warn you if your account has been compromised.

·       Activate two-factor authentication for your accounts.

·       If you suspect a friend or company has hacked, contact them directly through trusted channels (such as their phone number).

·       Never send money to someone you have only met on social media.

 

 Conclusion


In conclusion, the disastrous consequences of scams on social media underscore the urgent need for individuals, businesses, and social media platforms to remain vigilant and proactive in combating this pervasive threat. Educating users about the risks, implementing robust security measures, and fostering a culture of skepticism towards suspicious content are essential steps in mitigating the impact of social media scams.

 

 References

 

 

 

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