Many of us today are connected to one social media platform or another. We are connected when we comment on our friend’s Facebook post or like a family member’s Instagram photo or browse the latest TikTok dances. Social media is defined as interactive technologies through which people create and share information and ideas, as well as hold conversations and develop communities. Because so many people are involved in a social media community in one form or another (i.e. over 1 billion active users on Instagram and 2 billion active users on Facebook), it can be a large fishing pond for scammers and hackers.
If you or your friends and family are active on social media, it is important to know how to play it safe and protect yourself. In order to do this, you should educate yourself on the potential scams and various techniques that a scammer might use to hurt you. Common social media scams include:
1) Account cancellation/issue scam. One of the most common scams that may come across your social media are messages from seemingly legitimate websites you use/accounts you have claiming that your account has been deactivated, has been locked or needs updating. They often require you enter your personal information (primarily credit card information). Many individuals fall for these kinds of scams because they are unaware of the risk and are concerned about losing access to whatever account is being threatened. If you come across something like this, navigate to the legitimate website through a search engine, not through the link provided in the message or post, as they will likely lead you to a copycat website in an attempt to steal and use your personal information.
2) Free money/gift scam. Always be wary of someone offering you anything free. Sometimes social media accounts will claim to be giving away freebies or free gift cards or sometimes go so far as to say you have won a large cash prize (even when you never entered any contest). In order to claim your prize, they may ask you for your personal information and steal from you instead. As a general rule, be wary of anything free and be wary of any site or email asking for personal information (particularly bank details).
3) Cat-fishing scam. Cat-fishing occurs when someone creates a fake online identity to form a relationship with you and scam you out of your money. These are often created under the false pretenses of a romantic relationship, and as the relationship develops, the scammer devises a clever plan to trick their victim into giving a “gift” or “helping them out” by sending money. If you meet someone online, be wary of inconsistencies in their profile or their story and be wary if they seem to be in a rush to move the relationship forward but won’t meet you in person.
You should be able to enjoy your social media experience and not worry about what you are viewing, but unfortunately, that is not the reality. If you are worried that you or someone you love has become the victim of a social media scammer, consider contacting a private investigator through Investigation Hotline, Toronto’s Elite agency.