Watch Out for These Common Social Media Scams

By Zachary Amos •  Updated: 10/14/22 •  6 min read

Social media has become such an important part of many people’s lives. The ability to contact anyone worldwide in real-time has been welcomed. It means many people can keep up with their friends and family without the need to make a phone call or write a letter.

Still, with social media more crucial to society than ever, people with bad intentions will want to exploit those who don’t know how to discern between legitimate social media posts and those that could steal their information. Always keep an eye out for scams that look too good to be true.

1. Gossip Scams

Nearly everyone is familiar with and dislikes the topic of clickbait. Clickbait has a promising article title, but the article either doesn’t address the headline or spends way too long getting to the point. Scammers have begun to use clickbait-like headlines to gain the trust of social media users and entice them to click on a link that someone or a page has posted.

Before you click on an article, try to find the source URL. Is it a website you trust? No matter how enticing the latest gossip might be, you can always find it on a source you trust later – if it’s a legitimate story. Often, with these scams, there is no article at all, and the clicked link allows access to your information.

2. Free Gift Card Scams

Free gift card scams are some of the oldest on the internet, but many people still can’t see through them on social media. Some scammers will create fake pages that look nearly identical to a reputable brand, create posts, and make comments that tell people they have the chance to win or have won a gift card or a voucher for their “business.”

Scammers hook their first victim in just over a minute by disguising their attempts as legitimate email or social media posts. Because these scammers make their pages look reputable, you must use a keen eye when determining whether a page is honest.

First, many social media sites use transparency tools to show you when a page was created or if its name was changed recently. You can also tell by how comments and posts are crafted. If they use a strange font or have many typos, it’s a good indication they might be a scam.

3. Email and Password Phishing

Some ads will look like a scam, but many people may not know they should avoid sketchy websites. Just because it has been advertised on social media doesn’t mean it’s a legitimate business. Even if you click on an ad or a legitimate-looking link, it might be trying to grab any information you have linked to your social media account.

Make sure you change your password at least once a quarter to ensure your accounts are never compromised for very long. This way, if a hacker accesses your accounts without you knowing, you still don’t have to worry about them having access for too long.

4. Scam Advertisements

Not every ad does what it says it will. Some offer products that will never arrive, and you’ll have to check or cancel your card information to ensure you haven’t been compromised. It might be easy to identify which ads are scams. The easiest way to avoid these ads is to only buy from online stores you believe are reputable. Read reviews before you buy a product. Don’t take a chance unless it’s from a site you trust or the reviews (with photos) are what you expected.

You should update your phone’s or computer’s software routinely, as each new update contains security patches that will repair any vulnerabilities cybercriminals could use to exploit your device and information. You can turn automatic updates on, and your device will be protected as you browse the web.

5. Money Request Scams

Many people know not to send money to strangers. Gone are the days when you would receive an email from someone you didn’t know asking for money and saying that it would be returned to you. You may not receive those emails often; if you do, they might be filtered into your junk folder.

Now, scammers hack into your loved ones’ accounts and make it look like they are the ones asking for funds. They might say they’re stuck abroad and need your money to get back home. If you see something strange from a friend of yours, check their page. If their posting seems a little weird or you weren’t expecting them to go on this trip, it’s probably a scam, and their account was hacked.

6. Health Care Issues

Some people might receive scam messages from reputable-looking pages that involve information about their health care or financial safety. Younger generations, who grew up knowing about scams, are not likely to fall for this tactic, but older generations just might think something is wrong with them or their information. Over 90,000 senior citizens were recently preyed upon for scams in just a year.

The best way to combat this scam is to educate the older folks in your life who may not be as internet-savvy. You can show them how to look up official pages and phone numbers of organizations that may contact them about serious information. Dispell some of the mystery behind social media, and your loved ones may feel more confident navigating the online world.

7. Is This You?

Sometimes, a hacked account will send you a message with a link, asking you to click and confirm that the person in the photo is you. These scams prey upon anxiety, making people concerned about their appearance easy targets for these hackers. Usually, the URL will take you somewhere that steals your information.

Before clicking on any URL, make sure it’s a trusted website. You should also look at the person’s account. Are they close friends, or did their message seemingly come out of nowhere? Keep your wits about you when talking to people on the internet to minimize your risk of compromising your information.

Do Your Due Diligence Online

Considering how evolved the internet has become, some people may find it challenging to avoid scammers. While scams might be everywhere, you can take steps to prevent your account from becoming a target. For example, oversharing on social media with no privacy controls can help hackers and scammers know more about you.

If your account is ever compromised, they have that information on you and can use it to make your posts seem more realistic. Be careful with the information you share online and the people you share your account details with. Always check twice before interacting with an offer, just in case it seems too good to be true. Doing so will keep you safe, both online and offline.

Zachary Amos

Zachary is a tech writer and the features editor of ReHack Magazine where he covers cybersecurity and all things technology.