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Social Media Scams

Using social media platforms to steal your personal data.

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The internet and social media have greatly expanded access to information, connectedness, and with that an increased possibility of getting scammed. As you scroll through your social media feeds and direct messages, it’s easy to misconstrue ploys to get your money. Various scams disguised as legitimate opportunities to make money yourself or to help a worthy cause continue to increase.

Be suspicious of people with pictures of cash and lavishness. Many social media platforms, particularly Instagram, are known for promoting lavish “lifestyles,” typically filled with boats, mansions, and piles of cash. If you are following people to see a glimpse of the high life, do so. But you should start to be suspicious if these fortunate people your friends with or follow on social media start talking to you about financial advice, business ventures or asking for money. Why, after all, would people already so fabulously wealthy need anything from you? Often, displays of cash and assorted luxury items are designed to project an image rather than a reality – sometimes benign, but occasionally aimed at stealing your money and making your own life poorer.

Ignore requests for money. More often than not, they’re probably internet scams. Do not respond to anyone who specifically asks you for money via social media (or email or any other online platform, for that matter). These scams can come as “investment opportunities” that ask you to send a little money now to reap big rewards later on. Another popular scam is when you’re informed you’ve won a sweepstakes contest that you never entered, and that you need to pay to claim your prize. Having to send money to make money is usually a scam. Don’t fall for it!

Strangers offering you money. Similar to those asking you for money, if someone offers you cash unprompted, it’s likely a scam, too. It is not common to be contacted by a business or person through social media offering to pay for your personal expenses. Although it may seem like a gift with no strings attached, all too often the gifter usually asks for something in return. The "gifts" are usually in a check form that you are asked to deposit and then forward a portion of the proceeds back to the gifter. Remember, the account the transaction is taking place in is in your name, and when/should the item return, you are left responsible for any negative balance.

Beware of “pump and dump” scams. We’ve covered the less subtle scam centered on making money as an investor, but what about when you’re solicited about buying stock in an actual company? “Pump-and-dump” scams occur when brokers hype up the potential of a (usually cheaply priced) listed firm to inflate the value of stock before selling their outsized shares; these pre-date social media and the internet itself. But in an era when people spend a good part of their time on social platforms, unscrupulous brokers have a new outlet for furthering these schemes. If someone – even a licensed broker or financial advisor – contacts you through social media about buying stock, it’s a good idea to be suspicious. Leave advice about investing to advisors who you know are working for you.

Keep personal details to a minimum. People love to post on social media about their kids, pets and other aspects of their personal lives. But this is also a great opportunity for scammers to glean valuable information. You put yourself at risk by “oversharing,” with such information as pet names or dates of birth, sometimes equipping fraudsters with what they need to hack into bank accounts or apply for financial products. These scams are more dangerous than the others because they involve identity theft rather than directly convincing you to hand over money, so make sure you’re extra vigilant!

If you suspect you're a victim of a social media scam, please contact our Member Solution Hub at 800-325-0808 for assistance.

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