Welcome to Part II of How to Spot a Social Media Scam From a Mile Away. As we covered in the last post, scammers are always looking for new ways to reel in victims. Whether they try to spread their scams via social media, email or even SMS, with a little knowledge and preparation, you can beat them at their own game. Let’s look at some other social media based scams so you know what you’re up against and how to combat it.
YouTube – Ah YouTube, the place where everybody thinks that they themselves are beautiful and talented, the venue where anybody can be a star (or not). YouTube might not be the first thing that pops into mind when thinking of social media networks but it is quite social – people post videos and other people comment on them, thus the typical social media exchanges, including scams, ensue.
Aside from the scam you pull on yourself by thinking that you are going to be the next Justin Beiber or Adele, there are plenty of other scams running rampant on the platform. There are your typical run-of-the-mill link-based scams, that fill your computer with malware and they go something like this: You receive an an email from “YouTube” that states that you are in “severe violation” of their policies. This email sure looks legit but upon closer analysis, some factors do seem “off” – first, it never tells you what you have done to violate policy. Secondly, companies as large as YouTube will never just send an “it’s over, we’re done” letter without following a strict protocol that gives ample warning before severe action is taken. Thirdly and most importantly, in this kind of scam, the specific details regarding your “violation” come via an attachment in the email – If you click on it, you’ll wind up with a PC or device full of malware.
Scammers also make use of the fact that YouTube is a video hosting platform, by creating videos that are scams in and of themselves – On YouTube, you can find videos hyping pyramid schemes, Ponzi schemes and products that can make you look 20 years younger. You know all their claims are empty and all they really want is your money …“But did you see how that $350 tube of moisturizer made all her wrinkles melt away and gave that other guy a killer six pack?!” Just because your eyes have seen something doesn’t make it real. We promise you, videos for products and services that seem too good to be true, well, aren’t true. Simple as that.
Another scam to watch out for on YouTube is comments that have links that contain malware. Say someone posts a video of their cat singing (more like meowing, but they’ll swear it’s singing anyway) “Happy Birthday to You”. Then someone in the comments says something like “You think that was good? You should see my cat sing “Happy Birthday” and play the keyboard at the same time!” The poster includes a link to “check it out”. That link might just be filled with malware.
What can you do? The best way to stay safe on YouTube is to be wary of the links you click therein and to view everything with a healthy dose of skepticism. This is also another time where having a solid antivirus and antimalware programs like RCS comes in really handy to block malware from malicious links you may click on.
Instagram – Like Snapchat, Instagram is another photo sharing platform that allows you to add striking filters and text to photos and then send them to a specific person or all your followers. Unlike Snapchat, which we discussed in Part I of this series, photos on Instagram stick around for as long as you keep them. Instagram is owned by Facebook and images are routinely shared cross-platform to Facebook, Twitter and other networks so it should be no surprise that it comes with its own share of scams and tricks to watch out for.
Some common Instagram scams involve pictures that purport to offer free tickets to concerts and for airlines – “Just by reposting or liking this image, you’ll get 2 free first class seats on Delta!”… Uh sure, right. What you will get when you click on the link in the picture is directed to a website with tons of … malware!
Then there are product and service-based scams. Diet scams are huge on Instagram because of the power of “before and after” pics – well, if you can see the results, they must be telling the truth, right? Um, no. In the day and age of Photoshop, keep in mind that a good “photoshopper” can essentially re-write history. Oh, your dog wasn’t there on your trip to Tahiti? Well lookie now, there he is wagging his tail, sipping a margarita in the pictures, right beside you. That’s the strength of Photoshop. Again. don’t believe everything you see, our eyes doth deceive us.
There have also been incidents of Instagram-specific apps that convince users to divulge sensitive information. This past November, the Insta-agent app, which promised to help users see who viewed their profile, turned out to be collecting user passwords and logins. It was also logging into user’s accounts and posting unauthorized images.
What can you do? To keep safe on Instagram, keep your wits about you. Don’t click on those shady shortened links unless you know with certainty that the account it’s coming from is legit. Look at accounts before you tag or share photos – if it’s supposedly coming from a well-known established brand but their account only has a few pictures, you can be sure it’s fake.
Also, Instagram advises to keep away from all third-party apps associated with it as they are generally an attempt to steal information.
Google+ – Ponder this – If a scam happens in an (almost) empty social media platform and there is no one around to scam, was it ever really a scam at all?
In this case, the answer is… Yes.
In 2015, researchers at Symantec discovered a scam involving fake Google+ accounts. When a scam account mentioned another (innocent) Google+ user, it would send an email to that user letting them know that someone mentioned them in a post. If the curious user wanted to find out why they were mentioned, all they had to do was click the link in the email, which directed them to an adult dating website. Because emails originated from Google+, spam filters failed to catch them.
Google hangouts, Big G’s answer to Skype and Facetime has had its share of scams associated with it as well. Work-at-home scams often conduct interviews with candidates via Hangouts, which was the case in a recent money mule work-at-home scam.
What can you do? For starters, when it comes to work-at-home jobs, do your research very, very carefully. You don’t want to wind up in jail for money-laundering, because that would just stink. And each time you get an email, from any platform really, telling you that someone mentioned you, but to find out who you have to click a link or give over sensitive information, just say “fuhgedaboudit!”
That’s all for now but come back next time and find out how to keep safe on Skype, Tumblr and Whatsapp.