Social Media Scams and How to Avoid Them

Social media scams abound in today’s society–and many of them may be harder to spot than you initially thought.

Social Media Scams and How to Avoid Them

Social media scams abound in today’s society–and many of them may be harder to spot than you initially thought. Do you love taking quizzes online? Are you delighted by surveys that ask weird questions that help you find out more about your friends? While those platforms may offer a lot of fun, they also come with an inherent danger: they could be providing scammers with all the information they need to access your private accounts.

The Information Scammers Can Mine

It seems harmless to share information like the name of your third grade teacher or the school you attended growing up. Your first car? Even all these years later, you still look back with nostalgia on that car, and you love the idea of sharing information about it with your social media followers.

There’s just one problem: that information can also provide people with access to your account.

Through those quizzes and surveys, scammers can find out:

Your Passwords

Often, access to your account is as simple as guessing your password–and many people use common words, phrases, or names to help them remember their passwords in the future. Sometimes, scammers can guess your password from the information you have shared.

Your Security Question Answers

Many of the sites you use on a regular basis, from social media accounts to your email account, use random security questions that you’ll have to be able to guess in order to access your account if you get locked out. They may ask things like your mother’s maiden name, your high school, or, for example, the name of your third grade teacher or the make and model of your first car.

Those questions, in short, are the same information you’ve provided so gleefully as part of your social media surveys or quizzes.

From the answers to those questions, scammers can actually lock you out of your account completely, since they can reset your password to something they can remember instead of your own answers to that information. Even your bank account, insurance accounts, and payment accounts like PayPal or sites that store your payment information can be accessed with the answers to those security questions–and as hackers and scammers compromise one of your accounts, they may find it easier to access the others.

Protecting Yourself from Social Media Scams

Protecting yourself from social media scams can be incredibly challenging, especially with many people spending more time than ever online in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Surveys and quizzes are a great way to fill some time, especially if you’re bored at home due to quarantine protocols.

How can you protect yourself?

1. Choose the security questions you answer with care.

Many sites now allow you to choose the security questions you want to answer, rather than forcing you to only answer a predetermined set of questions. Choose the security questions you answer carefully. Do not use security questions that you know you have shared the answer to in the past or questions that simply feel insecure. For example, your mother’s maiden name could be easily accessible on social media if she uses it as part of her profile name, so you might not want to include that as a security question on your profile.

2. Do not share private information on social media.

In today’s society, lives are shared on social media with little more thought than having a conversation with a friend. Many people share their location on social media without hesitation. Others will answer whatever questions a survey asks without even stopping to consider where else the information might be used.

As you become more security-minded, however, you’ll find that you’re less willing, in general, to share that private information. You should carefully protect your private information and not bring it out on social media.

3. Pay attention to the platforms you’re using.

Disreputable platforms and insecure links can all collect your information. Many of those apps and programs you use on a regular basis connect directly to your social media profile. Before selecting a new app, take the time to carefully examine it and determine whether it will offer a high degree of security. Avoid connecting your social media account to disreputable platforms or platforms you do not recognize for any reason.

What To Do After a Social Media Compromise

You accidentally fell victim to a scam on social media. Now what? Following the compromise of your information, make sure you work quickly to protect your accounts and the rest of your secure information.

1. Reset any passwords for compromised accounts.

Many accounts, including social media, now give you the ability to log out of your account on all other devices when you change your password. To help protect your accounts, reset any passwords and log out of those other devices. You’ll have to log back into social media on your other devices, but that’s a small price to pay for getting your account out of the hands of a hacker.

2. Change security questions, if needed.

Sometimes, you may need to change your security questions in order to make them more secure. You may need to contact the company directly to let them know that you think your account has been compromised and that you need to make changes in order to protect your security.

3. Use multifactor authentication whenever possible.

With multifactor authentication, it can prove much more difficult to compromise your account, since hackers would need to access your device instead of just the answers to your questions. However, keep in mind that with the answers to your security questions, hackers may still be able to break in and access your accounts, especially if the platform does not have adequate security in place.

Learning to maintain your security in an online environment is now critical for users at every level. We can help. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help users protect their security online, from setting the right answers to their security questions to avoiding potential scams.

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