A celebrity death, an overdose, or an unbelievable story about a popular politician. Like the old adage says, you can’t believe everything you read. Well, in this case, you can’t believe everything you read on social media. Especially with the latest scams, hacking tricks and cyber criminals now finding many different methods to get personal information on the billions of users populating these sites on the web.
In recent years, most social media platforms have even integrated the most current news into their interface, whether it be informational or entertainment based (think: the ‘What’s Trending’ column on Facebook.) With the average person checking their Facebook multiple times a day, most of us hear the breaking story often hours or even minutes after it’s happened.
With a simple click, we re-post, re-tweet, or send the link via text without a second thought.
In a world of instant sharing, a reader can easily be disillusioned from fact vs. fiction. Take for example, the recent news of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s divorce. As quickly as their split was broadcasted to the masses, multiple articles began popping up on the internet speculating the cause. From Brad cheating on Angelina with co-star Marion Cotillard, to allegations of abuse against the couple’s 15-year-old son, Maddox, there are no shortage of gossip-riddled articles for pop culture addicts to latch onto.
What the reader may not know is that aside from delivering gossip to feed off of, these articles filled with false or inaccurate information often have an ulterior motive to get that extra “like” or “share.”
Hidden Tricks and Tactics
Similar in their attention-grabbing nature, articles that pull our heartstrings on social media can be preying on the reader who clicks on one too many of these popular posts. We have all seen something like it while scrolling our news feed – a solider returning from war to be reunited with his beloved dog and the tens of thousands of likes they accumulate. This tactic is known as “like-farming.”
Once the post reaches a large number of likes and shares, the creator can then re-work the link to lead to a malicious source, such as unwanted downloads or viruses. If you look back at a list of your past likes, you may find links or videos that you would have never “liked” in the first place.
Most internet users can differentiate between clickbait and the real stuff. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. But what about that link that offers to show local police records, or a video of YOU doing something scandalous at a party you recently went to? This type of cyber temptation is sometimes too hard to pass up. Once you click, the link can reroute you to log in to your Facebook or Twitter to see the article or video.
This is where they get you. After entering your username and password, the hacker then has full access your account. Phishing scams often pose as legitimate websites like Facebook, then go directly after your personal information to access your credit card number or bank account information.
How Do I Avoid Falling Victim to these Scams?
The first act of defense for any computer owner is to install a reliable security and antivirus program. Make sure to run regular checks on your computer for any hidden cyber threats.
Manage your privacy settings on all social media accounts to ensure that your phone number, e-mail, or other personal information aren’t on display for the taking.
Don’t accept invitations or friend requests from accounts that aren’t familiar to you. The more liberal you are with unknown “friends” the more susceptible your account is to being taken advantage of.
Beware of offers through ads, emails, and links. If it’s a particularly enticing topic, it’s probably too good to be true.