By Vanessa Papas
We can’t live without them – platforms like Instagram, Youtube, Facebook and Twitter. But with all the fun, sharing, friends, photos and interaction, these platforms are also targeted by con artists hungry for your money. Many consumers have fallen victim to social media fraudsters and landed up with deep holes in their pockets. Even celebs aren’t immune.
Lady Gaga had not one, but two of her social networks hacked in an effort to get her fans to download malware onto their systems. First, Gaga’s Facebook account was hacked and posts appeared offering giveaways of iPads to her fans. Once that mess had been cleaned up, the superstar’s Twitter account was hacked and her followers were presented with the same opportunity to receive a free iPad. Lady Gaga is not alone. Justin Bieber went through a major scam campaign on both Twitter and Facebook. Justin’s fans were conned into clicking links and downloading malware by the droves. Facebook was also the target of a Bieber scam when posts began to surface including news that Justin had been stabbed by a crazy fan.
Kovelin Naidoo, chief cyber security officer at FNB, says although social media scams in South Africa are not yet prevalent – compared to our global counterparts – the reality is that they do exist. Given that the popularity of social media is set to remain for the coming years, consumers are encouraged to constantly educate themselves and their loved ones about the dangers. Here Kovelin shares his tips.
Celebrity Impersonation (Facebook): This method has been made famous recently thanks to the emergence of social media giant Facebook. Almost everybody is on Facebook and that makes it a lucrative hunting space for scammers. They pick a popular celebrity who doesn’t have a verified presence on Facebook and create a page using his or her name. At first they’ll post pictures and quotes of the celebrity to appear authentic and to gain trust and followers. When they have a significant number of engagements they will strike with their scam, and it almost always involves taking your money.
Blackmail: Never share personal photos or videos on social media that portray you in a compromising position as scammers can use these against you by threatening to send them to close family members or upload them on public platforms. Thinking of showing a clip of that steamy session you and your hubby shared? Or that sexy pic of you in your new bikini? Rather don’t.
Phishing: Beware of fraudsters pretending to represent your bank on social media platforms. Your bank will never ask for your credit or cheque card, account number, online banking login details or password or One Time PIN (OTP) on social media platforms.
Help And Favours: Be on high alert when asked for special financial favours or urgent assistance by strangers, no matter how caring or persistent the individuals may seem. Never share your banking details with strangers and think twice before sending money to someone you recently met online or haven’t met in person yet.
Dating And Romance Scams: Police reported that the number of complaints filed about love/romance scams on social media went up by 20 percent from the previous year in 2017. Consumers who use social media platforms to meet companions or their life partners should look out for fraudsters that play on emotional triggers to scam people out of their hard-earned cash. Dating and romance scammers often lower your defences by appealing to your compassionate side in order to take advantage of you.
Giveaway Accounts: It’s not uncommon to find fake accounts on Instagram that are made to look like official brand accounts. Scammers exploit big brands by creating accounts using slight variations of the company’s official name to draw their victims into their scheme. These fake accounts are known for hosting giveaways that promise gift cards and cash prizes in exchange for social signals like comments and follow-backs, or sometimes sensitive personal information.
Instagram Boutique Scams: There’s been a steady rise in boutique accounts on Instagram that sell clothes, make-up, and some things in between. There are hundreds of posts out there from customers who are complaining about receiving cheap and ugly versions of the clothes they’ve purchased through various Instagram boutiques, other customers complain about never receiving what they ordered.
Student Loan Accounts: There’s been a steady rise of student loan agencies on Instagram that promise to erase a person’s debt. At first glance these pseudo-financial agencies offer promising services that sound enticing to someone who’s desperate for some financial relief.
But a closer inspection of their services would reveal that they’re offering things which you can find for free.
Identity Theft: Avoid sharing personal information such as ID, passport, driver’s licence, payslip, bank statement, or municipal or account statements on social media. Fraudsters can steal your information and use it illegally by impersonating you.
Money Laundering: Scammers often trick people through social media platforms by claiming to have large sums of cash that they need to deposit urgently through a foreign bank account. Do not allow your account to be used by another person to deposit or transact on. This can put you in serious trouble with authorities as allowing proceeds of crime to be laundered through your bank account, knowingly or unknowingly, is a criminal offence. Furthermore, never open a bank account in your name on behalf of a person you have met on social media platforms, irrespective of the circumstances.
Money Flipping: Money-flipping is a financial scam that’s becoming more and more popular on Instagram. This scam involves cybercriminals conning their victims into sending them money in the form of an investment. Cybercriminals make it seem like their victims are investing their money in a business model that lets them ‘flip’ or double their money in no time at all.