In today’s world we expect to get everything from social media and with 2.3 billion+ active social media users globally, this is only increasing in convenience and norm. We comfortably rent other people's houses, hire other people's cars, interact with our favorite brands, actors, authors and even presidents.
The benefits of social media are undeniable, but interacting with the world from the privacy of our homes makes it easy to forget that our actions may be visible to many, and that our deep investment and trust in the online community can be used against us.
During the past few years, we’ve at BrandBastion processed millions of comments on our clients’ social media properties. During this time, we’ve encountered thousands of different types of scams, some easily identified by the trained social media users, but others harder to spot and uncover.
In the beginning of this year, security software giant Symantec observed a huge influx of stolen-photo profiles used solely to interact with users in order to attract them to adult dating websites.
This technique is being used widely on sites such as Instagram and Facebook where deceivers hide their true identity behind fake profiles and use personalized 'baits' to gain the confidence of their victims (e.g. profiles of attractive women or men in the military with elaborated background stories).
The scammer usually approaches their victim by responding to a victim’s public comment on a public page to strike conversation. The first encounter often includes a compliment. Once a scammer has engaged initial conversation with the victim, s/he often continues the communication through Facebook messenger or other private chats.
The actual scam usually takes place when the scammer asks the victim to either pick up a package for them or to cash a check for them. This is often done after days or even weeks of chatting back and forth building a sense of trust between the parties.
You may think that no one would fall for this type of spam, but only in 2015, 23 million Australian dollars were lost due to these types of dating scams according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Similar to the Romance Scam, Sextortion scams also prey on individuals looking for love and companionship with the help of social media.
The attacker often befriends the victim and works to develop the guise of a sincere relationship before convincing their victim to exchange sexually explicit photos or videos. If you’ve received many random friend requests from suspicious looking profiles, you may have been targeted by a sextortion scam.
Statistics show that there are a lot of teenagers victims involved in this type of scam and once sexual material has been procured, the blackmailer usually starts making demands.
Last year alone, the FBI declared that more than $200 million dollars were stolen through schemes of this nature.
It's not uncommon for early copies of highly anticipated movies and music to leak to the web. Scam artists take advantage of the online public's demand for new entertainment by populating social media channels like Facebook and YouTube with links purporting to offer streams of the media.
Usually scammers target the social media accounts and ads of entertainment companies in order to spread their comments to a target audience that is most likely interested in the movie in question. When these types of comments are displayed on an entertainment company’ own site, users are often tricked into clicking through with the false sense of security, as the link is found in a familiar environment.
The links may at times lead to real piracy or they will require downloading of software that will often result in malware used to hijack browsers or steal personal data. In other cases, the call-to-action links redirect the users to phoney video streaming sites in an attempt acquire credit card information.
One of the scams that has received quite a bit of media attention lately is the brand impersonation scams. This scam takes place when an impostor creates a page or an account on social media pretending to be a brand in order to spam recipients or to hurt a brand’s reputation.
This type of spamming is low-cost, low-tech, but it usually carries a high reward in the hacker's arsenal. Fans are often quite easily deceived by the title of a page and trusting it's the original brand itself, fans will often fill in their account details to participate in a survey or click on a link on the imposter’s page leading to malware, which results in their account being hacked.
Brand impersonators often utilise a brand’s official Facebook or Instagram page to lay out baits for their victims often posting comments such as “We set up a page for our fall give-away. Participate here”. They post these comments from accounts impersonating the brand itself making it challenging for people to spot the difference.
If you’re a brand, it’s advised that you take precaution to avoid scammers hijacking your properties and tricking your fans and if you’re an active social media user, remember the universal quote 'All that glitters is not gold’.
The fast moving environment on social media is a fantastic channel for brands and people alike, but it's also very much a breeding ground for scams and con-artists.