Don’t Become a Victim of Social Media Fraud
Facebook recently made world history when the social media site crossed the 500,000,000 threshold of registered users. Along with other popular social media networks like YouTube, My Space, Twitter, and LinkedIn, to name a few, there exist today online networks of unprecedented proportions that represent a marketer’s dream come true. Unfortunately, social media sites have also become a breeding ground for consumer fraud and scam.
Social media marketing (SMM) through networks such as Facebook, whose own population of registered “friends” would today make it the third largest country in the world, is a powerful viral marketing channel–with friends sharing information in their networks. While legitimate marketers leverage traditional and interactive advertising initiatives to grow the number of company friends, fans, and followers – effectively converting them into loyal new and repeat customers- scam artists have quickly learned how to use social networks for fraudulent activities.
At Bay E-Solutions, we recognize that conversion-driven social media marketing has the potential to expose a company to millions of social media users; however, consumers (both businesses and individuals alike) need to be aware of the potential dangers that lurk within social media networks in which the guise of friendliness and familiarity makes it easier for fraudsters to commit scams and theft, often referred to as affinity fraud.
One of the greatest resources of social networks like Facebook is access to a large base of registered users. Generally, various applications or “apps” are developed that allow users to interact with fellow members of the network. There are countless apps enjoyed by users like games, quizzes, polls, challenges, sharing favorite foods and drinks, celebrity rankers, movie raters and various business applications that can be added to a personal or business page with just a click. Once added to a user’s account, his or her own network of friends or fans are often invited directly or indirectly to add it to theirs profile as well.
Savvy scamsters have found ways to exploit various apps, making it easy to use the social media networks to virally spread scam. For example, some things as seemingly innocent as the recent Facebook app for a “DISLIKE” button or the opportunity to see the ‘Top 10 Funny T-shirt Fails’ were actually Internet scams. Referred to as ‘clickjacking’, users are enticed to click on an email, icon, an invitation, video or link sent by an acquaintance through their network or even posted on a profile wall. These seem harmless enough, but often hidden within them are disguised, non-intended apps which are inadvertently downloaded into an account, providing fraudsters the ability to access personal data and network of contacts/fans, giving them the ability to rapidly spread scams throughout the network. Not to mention announcements on your behalf to your friends and fans.
Once the fraudulent app has been downloaded, sensitive information is then obtained through the user’s participation in disguised surveys or via online forms. Personal information such as passwords, cell phone numbers and even bank account/credit card info is often requested “verification purposes.” The result will often be ID theft and/or fraudulent charges to the victims’ accounts.
Brand names are often used to legitimize some scams as well. Users are lured to click on the Facebook “LIKE” button to supposedly receive a free gift card for companies such as Starbucks, Subway, McDonald’s, or Coca Cola. Recent twists of fraud include corporate non-endorsements that have been spread through fake status updates sent through social media networks claiming to have access to “horrifying” videos of both McDonalds and Coca Cola. Recipients were directed to complete a survey to verify that the recipient is a real human being and once completed, the participant would be able to see the alleged videos. The survey collects personal data used in perpetuating Internet scam.
Other applications cause users to download malware through fake versions of flash or a Microsoft patch that provides criminals access to personal and business computers to access sensitive and financial data. AIS Media has found the use of such applications in some of the many games and quizzes that are so popular today on social media sites.
The message here is to be proactive. Facebook and the other social media sites are very responsive in immediately removing these scam applications and other fraud activities, but because of the rapid pace of viral messaging of SMM, both business and individual, must use good judgment when social networking.
Here are ten timely suggestions from Bay E-Solutions & Technology to avoid getting caught in the social media fraud snare:
- Be selective about who you include in your network as well as the size of it. Do you really need 1,740 friends? When receiving a friend request, the rule of thumb is: if you don’t know them, decline the request.
- Restrict your Facebook page to only allow access to those chosen individuals who you want to see your information.
- Even if your information is restricted to only your chosen friends, be cautious with personal information like birthdays, maiden names, family members’ information, addresses, phone numbers, etc. If one of your friends’ account is hacked, they will now have access to your personal information.
- Don’t post upcoming vacations, holiday travel and, business plans so that others know you are away.
- Be careful of the pictures you post. Don’t show pictures of your home and expensive toys.
- Take care to educate children on the dangers of sharing information and steps they take to protect themselves on the Internet and social networks. The Better Business Bureau warns that although many younger Internet users may be computer savvy, they may have little knowledge of Internet scams, identity thefts, and phishing activities.
- Be aware of the impact of geotagging. Today, some gps-enabled cameras and smartphones can stamp your photos with the exact location of where the photo was taken. Geo-tagging information is often embedded in digital pictures and can be used to track addresses as well as an individual’s movements. Learn how to disable this feature on your smartphone and digital camera. Facebook has an option for disabling the feature for allowing friends to inadvertently release your whereabouts via geotagging in photographs to others within their individual online networks.
- Be careful when using public computers (i.e. your friends’, the library, internet cafe, etc.) to access password restricted internet applications like Facebook or Twitter. ‘Status jacking’, in which login information is used to post false information is rapidly growing. Oftentimes, somebody posting a status on your behalf (to your network of friend who trust you) contains URL links that download malware to an unknowing individual’s computer or account, quickly spreading harmful viruses, etc. throughout the network. Consumers should guard login information and ensure to log out from their internet applications when leaving a computer unattended or putting down their smart phone. Social networks constantly updates the network settings so be sure to review your privacy settings frequently
- Consider using Firefox as your browser. Many of the apps require confirmation before they can be downloaded which Firefox often restricts. In addition, make certain your security and firewalls programs are frequently updated.
- Always review messages from friends and associates; especially those from individuals you don’t know. If in doubt as to the authenticity of where you are being sent before you click, google the URL (www.address.com) to see if the site you’re being directed is legitimate. Indicators of bogus messages include misspellings, poor grammar, ALL CAPS and excessive use of exclamation points. Often malware is embedded into popup windows. If popup windows prompt you to supply information or agree to “connect”, contact the sender to see if the request is legitimate.
While the popularity of Facebook and other social media networks continues to grow rapidly, SMM has proven to be a boon to businesses that benefit tremendously by reaching the vast market of consumers. However, the consumers of the various social media networks should follow prudent use of this ever-growing medium to guard against those who attempt to use the Internet and social networks for their online scams and fraud.
What other scams should social media marketers be aware of?
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