How to Spot a Social Media Scam From a Mile Away – Part I

We sure do hear a lot about Facebook scams. And there is a good reason for that – there are lots and lots of Facebook scams circulating and there seems to be no shortage of people who fall for them, time and time again. So just remember this the next time you find yourself on the big FB – No one is going to give you free concert tickets for liking their page and major airlines aren’t throwing first class tickets your way for sharing their page.
While it may be easy to recognize scams like this on Facebook, there are other scams making their rounds on other networks and they are often times harder to pinpoint. In fact, all major social media platforms have some kind of scams running on them. Some are easy to spot like pay-for-followers scams on Twitter but some are much less self-evident, such as the recruiter scams that circulate every now and then on LinkedIn. We are going to give you an overview of some trending scams on the other major platforms to remind you that Facebook isn’t the only place you need to use caution.
512px-Linkedin_ChocolatesLinkedIn – LinkedIn is a great tool for making professional connections and for establishing reputation. It’s also a goldmine for hackers looking to find a great deal of personal information, like employment history, universities attended, and other professional accomplishments.
Whereas scams on other platforms often times look for many small hits, a savvy hacker using LinkedIn with time and resources on his or her hands could craft a highly personalized and large-scale attack. This is referred to as whaling – a hacker uses the personal information in a target’s profile to create amazingly slick job offers or recruitment letters. Knowing where they went to school, who they know and where they have worked can paint a pretty clear picture of what would appeal to job seekers. Hackers are all too happy to use this opportunity to lure victims into work-at-home schemes in which they will never be paid, or worse yet to divulge highly sensitive information like bank account details and social security numbers.
What can you do? The most important thing you can do to protect yourself on LinkedIn is to only accept connection requests from people you know or to only accept once you have checked out their profile and verified they are indeed legit.
twitterTwitter – On Twitter, everything moves at fast. Tweets flow like rushing water and that speed can cause people to be less than judicious when it comes to clicking links.
At any given time there are tons of Twitter scams going on within the Twitter-verse, such as “get-1000s-of-followers-now” scams, fake direct messages (DMs) that phish for information, and don’t forget the poisoned link scam – Because Twitter Is a microblogging platform, it limits the length of posts to 140 characters, which means that letter real-estate is at a premium on the platform. To solve the problem of including lengthy links that take up lots of space, many people use URL shorteners to truncate them, saving that precious space. Shortened URLs are great because they allow you to include a link and text in tweets, but the downside is that they hide your destination. If a regular link looks like this, “”, a shortened link would be “” . Both lead to the same place but on the longer one you see where you will be directed. The shorter one gives you no clue as to your eventual destination. Hackers use this to direct targets to sites filled with malware.
What can you do? To keep safe on Twitter, make sure your antivirus and antimalware suite is up to date and that it will let you know if you accidentally click on a dangerous link or come up against malware in some other way. Also, rule of thumb, don’t go clicking links if you aren’t sure if the source is trustworthy – It’s okay to have lots of followers even if you don’t know them, but if you don’t actually know that he or she is legit, don’t click links in their posts or DM’s.
pinterestPinterest – Pinterest is the visual corkboard social network that allows you to pin images you like from people you follow and save them to your own board. It may seem bizarre that anyone would devote time and energy into creating a Pinterest-centered scam when it really should be used to find the exact shade of mauve to paint that end table in the hallway, but believe it or not, scams and tricks run like wild fire on the platform.
Part of the problem lies in the fact that inherent within the structure of the site, users pin other people’s images – and you never know if the link is harboring malware or will direct you towards another one of those miserable websites filled with viruses.
Another prevalent Pinterest scam centers around pinning surveys. You might see a pin claiming to offer a free gift in return for pinning the image or filling out a survey – but once you fill it out you are required to fill out sensitive information as well like DOB and email addresses. Wondering what they might do with that info? Most likely it will be used to steal your identity at a later date when you have completely forgotten about that survey…
What can you do? The trick to staying safe on Pinterest is to pin with thought. This basically boils down to keeping your thinking cap on while using the site. When pinning, ask yourself the following questions – Does the pin look “normal”? Is there a lot of accompanying information? Does the pinner’s profile seem legit? Doing so you might just save yourself a lot of aggravation and you can still get that hallway end table looking mighty fine.
snapchatSnapchat – Talk about fast-paced, images on Snapchat last a meager 10 seconds (unless it’s part of your story, then it lasts for 24 hours and even then, technically it could hang around for longer, it’s confusing and if you’re older than 30, then there’s just no way you’ll ever get it. So. Like. Get. Over. It.).
Even this mobile image and video messaging service that’s uber-popular with teens and young adults has its own scams going ‘round on it. You might get an image that says you have won a contest. But hmmm, you never entered any contest… like, no way! It’s a scam! Clicking on the contest leads you to a malware filled website that asks you to fill out your name and DOB and some other information for no good reason at all. There are also “leaked Snapchats” scams that try to lure victims to click on inappropriate images. If they take the bait, they are instead directed to… malware filled websites! How original!
What can you (or perhaps more appropriately, your teenager) do? To keep safe on Snapchat, make sure your privacy settings so that you only get snaps (the Snapchat equivalent of a message) from people you know and don’t open messages from people you don’t know.
Okay, check back for our next installment where we tell you how to stay safe from scammers and tricksters on Google+, Skype, Instagram and YouTube.
LinkedIn Chocolates image courtesy of Nan Palmero from San Antonio, TX, USA (Linkedin Chocolates Uploaded by JohnnyMrNinja) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons