The Rise of Social Media Scams in 2020: Are Your Social Media Accounts Hacker-Proof?

Did you know the amount of social media users in the world increased to 3.5 billion in 2019, with 288 million new users active on social media since just last year?

This year YouTube reached the same ranks as Facebook with 2 billion monthly active users to boast. Both Instagram and WhatsApp have 1 billion active users, while LinkedIn and Twitter have more than 300 million active users each.

These numbers are only rising as people continue to create new accounts on these top social media sites as well as hundreds of smaller platforms.

The Importance of Social Media to Small Business Marketing Strategies

It’s no secret that social media can often make or break a small business. Many business owners take advantage of the significance of social media, with almost three-quarters of small businesses now investing in social media marketing in 2019.

While these platforms are integrated into our daily lives and a primary source for many people for the latest entertainment and news; social media can also pose a major security threat when one is not careful. And for scammers, the 3.5 billion social media users worldwide are all lucrative targets for their hacks.

Types of Social Media Scam and How They Work

Recently, it was reported that there were several leaked databases, containing more than 419 million data records tied to Facebook accounts. Data, such as names, personal phone numbers and Facebook IDs, were in these databases. According to Facebook, the information in these databases was old and from before they made the changes last year to remove people’s ability to finds others using phone numbers. While the information is “old”, people rarely change their phone numbers, making them vulnerable to robocalls and scams.

And to make matters worse, a leak involving Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, was recently discovered containing the same type of data found in the compromised databases. This means hackers were bypassing the platform’s security to mine for phone numbers and account numbers linked to usernames. Facebook agreed to patch the vulnerability, yet the data compromised during that time is still within the hands of hackers.

“Social media incidents accounted for over 56% of the 4.5 billion data records comprised worldwide in the first half of 2018,” according to the Breach Level Index, a global database of public data breaches. Social media can provide valuable insight into a user’s activity, providing a hacker with information such about the things you like, the places you’ve been, your list of friends, and more. The more information a scammer has about you, the easier it is for them to manipulate you or launch an attack to get more information about an individual through you.

NerdsToGo would like to share some common techniques that hackers use to lure unsuspecting targets. Understanding these common types of internet scams will help you identify them and avoid being scammed.

  • Romance Scams:
    • Humans are social creatures. The quest to find love can be an uphill battle but has been made easier with the rise of online dating in the past years. Especially now that 59% of American adults think online dating is a good way to meet people. However, online dating platforms are a hotbed for scammers. Romance scammers lure people with fake online profiles. Once connected, the scammers will build trust and often win the hearts of their victims. Then, the scammer will ask for money to cover a crisis or medical emergency. In 2018, the FTC reported that in 2018, people lost $143 million to romance scams, more than any other consumer scam.
  • Social Media Phishing:
    • For those who do not know, phishing (pronounced fishing) is the hackers attempt to steal your information such as passwords, bank account numbers or trick you into downloading malware onto your computer. Majority of phishing attempts occur over email where a hacker would send an email that looks like comes from a reputable business such as Microsoft, Apple, Chase, Wells Fargo, etc. that redirects the user to a website prompting them to “log in”. Any data typed, such as usernames, passwords, credit cards, or other valuable sensitive information, is captured by hackers which gives them access to your real accounts and credit cards.
    • The Better Business Bureau reported a new phishing scam where users would receive a Facebook message with a video link asking, “Is this you?” The hacker is masked as a friend who found an interesting video you’re in and they want to share it with you. In most cases, they asked for you click on a link which redirects you to a clone Facebook website meant to steal your account information or automatically start downloading malware into your computer. Since Facebook Messenger is a common messaging app people used to stay in touch with close friends, and they often don’t think twice when they receive these messages, especially ones that could directly involve them.
  • Clickbait:
    • Almost nothing gets a user’s attention more than a flashy headline telling them to click now or be left in the dust! These clickbait campaigns are effective in their attention-grabbing manner. They directly cater to the senses that entice users to click on the bait. Once again, the user is directed to sign in, accept app permissions, or more. Any information that is typed is once again compromised by hackers.

How to Stay Safe and Avoid Social Media Scams & Hacks

While a user might not have the power to prevent a data breach of a large service providers, NerdsToGo has some expert advice from our computer technicians to help reduce the risk of being scammed online.

  • Always think twice before clicking: If you receive a message from a friend that is out of character, you should contact them directly before you click the link or go to a different web address. Since the message is coming from their account, they could be victims too.
  • Check your data sharing permissions: Social media is notorious for the data it collects on its users, but did you know that most of the information they collect you can opt-out of? Check your app and social media settings on what data you’re comfortable with sharing or not. If unsure how to do this, just ask one of the reliable Nerds and they’ll be happy to help.
  • Opt into two-factor authentication: Most major social media websites offer two-factor authentication. This is when you connect your account to your smartphone. Each time you log-in, you’ll get the need to verify on the website the code you receive on your phone to gain access into your account. This is the simplest and effective way to stop hackers in their tracks.
  • Trust your gut feeling: If you encounter something that you think is too good to be true or just downright suspicious, then don’t click it! Don’t add contacts you don’t know or seem fake. And don’t click on random links from sources you know or give permissions to unknown applications.

NerdsToGo Computer Repair Can Help

Scammer and hackers are out there! But if you follow the tips above, you’ll decrease the risk of falling for a scam and help prevent identity theft. If you suspect you have been the victim of a scam attack, report the scammers to the social media provider such as Facebook or Google. And be sure to change your login information!

We also recommend keeping your firewall and anti-virus software on your computer up to date to prevent viruses, malware, and ransomware.

For additional tech support and consultation on staying safe on the internet and social media, contact NerdsToGo today.