4 Popular Social Media Money Scams to Avoid
While there are countless types of fraud out there—from identity theft, to COVID-related fraud, to phone and text scams, and more—social media fraud is ever-growing and evolving, and more and more people are falling for it.
Here are some of the most common types of scams running rampant on social media today.
1. Gift Card Payments
A type of social media scam growing in popularity as of late involves scammers requesting payment in the form of gift cards. Often, the scammers will pose as a government entity, utility company, tech support, potential employer, or even a friend or family member. They let you know that you can make a payment to them in the form of gift cards, usually specify exactly what type of gift card they need, offer detailed direction for buying them so as not to appear suspicious, and then request the gift card number and PIN. They’ll make their request sound urgent—stating that something bad will happen if you don’t take part.
No legitimate company or government agency will ever ask you to pay in the form of gift cards. If you receive a message via social media, email, or text requesting this form of payment, do not respond.
2. Card Cracking
Another popular scam that thrives on social media is often referred to as “card-cracking.” In these instances, fraudsters request access to a social media user's debit card number and their online bank account log-in information, in exchange for payment. Victims are led to believe that the fraudster will deposit bad checks or run up charges, and that he or she (the victim) can simply claim the card was lost or stolen so that it's a "win-win" situation. Not the case. Instead, they’re left with empty bank accounts and could be charged as a criminal accomplice.
3. Money “Giveaways”
If you’ve seen “get money quick” posts on Facebook, Facebook Marketplace, or your other social media pages that seem too good to be true…that’s exactly what they are.
You may have seen posts re-shared in your feed claiming that high-profile people, companies, or company owners are giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars and all you have to do is re-share or comment for a chance to win or claim your share. Always do your research before entering giveaways to determine their legitimacy; unless these posts come from a verified, corporate page and have legal disclaimer attached, consider them fake.
On a more local level, scammers will frequent Facebook Marketplace and attempt to pull at the heartstrings or target someone down on their luck by posting something like, “Are you in need of a little help to get by this month? I’m giving away $1,000 to three people.” Or, “I just inherited a large sum of cash and want to pay it forward to someone in need, message me for details.” From there, scammers may request personal information or banking information with a promise of getting you cash, only to use your information to steal your identity, drain your accounts, or both.
4. Profile Impostors & Hackers
Chances are, you or a family or friend have been hacked on social media or have seen a duplicate profile pop up—created by an impostor. Scammers who hack into your existing accounts or clone your account may reach out to your connections via messenger, sending them a link in an attempt to phish their information, while others may post straight to your Newsfeed with a scam that involves weight loss supplements, getting cash fast, or any other number of too-good-to-be-true offers with links that take your friends and family to phishing sites or sites containing viruses.
In many cases, these links may lead to surveys that not only attempt to obtain personal information from your friends and family, they may also request payment or banking information.
There’s also the potential the hacker/profile cloner will pose as you and reach out to friends and family claiming that you’re in some kind of trouble or financial bind and need assistance.
Scammers have also gotten crafty in imitating companies by creating fake pages or profiles that look quite similar to the official company pages, then post fake giveaways or offers with dangerous links or reach out to people privately using any of the scare tactics mentioned above to retrieve some kind of payment or personal information.
How to Avoid & Report Social Media Scams
- Trust your gut. If you think something seems off, it probably is. If you’re unsure whether the person or entity reaching out to you is legit, always assume it’s not first. Track down their official contact information (or if it’s a person you know in real life, reach out to them directly) and confirm it’s them before taking any kind of action.
- Create strong passwords and don’t share identifying information online. Make sure your passwords are strong, containing numbers and special characters, and whenever you’re able, require multi-factor authentication to log-in. In addition, don’t share too much personal information on your social media pages that could make it easy for hackers to guess your passwords or security questions elsewhere (significant dates, pet’s nickname, first concert attended, etc.)
- Report scam and fraud attempts immediately. If you think you’ve fallen victim to these types of scams or spot them floating around, report them right away. You’ll want to report them to:
- The appropriate social media site’s Help Center or Support Inbox.
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)’s website.
- Your financial institution (if you believe you were scammed).
- Stay in-the-know and vigilant. Educate yourself on the most current types of scams and practice caution when spending time online. Check out these articles for more information:
Stay safe out there, readers!