Scammers use social media to initiate contact, and social engineering to get you to trust them. That’s when they strike.
Just about everyone has a smart device, everything from mobile phones, to watches, camera doorbells, TVs and thermostats that ‘learn’. This “Internet of Things” can provide instant access to them to do daily functions and are generally intended to make our lives better. They also gather and share data.
Using your smart device for social media is a common thing, but you must be prepared for more than just some likes and shares on your pic of that dinner you made or the photo of that cute pupper you posted.
In 2019, romance scams through social media resulted in over 470 victims in Canada, and a loss of over $13 million. Grants, merchandise, prizes or job offers resulted in well over that amount and a million dollars in loss. Those are just those that reported it. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre estimates that less than 5% report their losses to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. So, if that’s the case, we’re talking about well over $260 million in fraud from romance scams alone. They do it, because it pays. It’s nefarious, it’s evil even, but it pays.
Fraudsters obviously use social media for social engineering and setting up communication with potential victims. You often hear of people getting their accounts “hacked” and often you see mirror accounts where the scammer poses as you, steals a few pics, makes some friend requests to your current friends list, they accept without thinking and then they begin to send out messages to them asking for assistance. Maybe you’re stuck in Mexico (pre-COVID perhaps) and need $1500 to get out of jail, or you have to pay a hospital bill or you will be arrested. By our nature, we help our friends, and in turn, sometimes you help the scammers to target your friends.
Simple tips will help you in the long run.
- Protect your account and your devices by making sure your device is updated, which helps with its security
- Avoid simple passwords, or having the exact same password in multiple accounts
- Don’t use your name, date of birth or personal information as part of your password, they are easily guessed
- Do not accept requests from people you don’t know, and never send money to someone you’ve never met.
- Do not trust guarantees of free money. If you have to pay for a “grant” it isn’t free.
- Be wary of people who always have an excuse about why you cannot meet in person.
- Use alerts on your financial accounts to warn you if someone other than you access them or adds new payees.
- Tell two people what you’ve learned. If we had an unbroken chain of 25 people telling two people each, we’d cover the entire population of Canada.