Scam Alert! Social Media Malware, Fraud and Foolishness

Can you spot a social media scam? Can your clients? It’s a question every business owner (and social media consulting agency) should be fully informed about; confused clients may inadvertently fall prey to unscrupulous tactics…or even worse…skip over important information and offers because it “looks too good to be true”. Learn how to identify common social media scams and help keep consumers informed about legitimate offers with today’s timely article and tips.

Social media scams. Once upon a time the Internet was a relatively safe place…then they let people join! Seriously though, where there are people there will be scammers. Email has been plagued by scam and spam for years so it was only a matter of time before social media became a prime target. Of course, savvy business owners would rarely fall for the most obvious scams but that doesn’t mean you are without risk…if clients are afraid to connect due to the inability to discern between a valid offer and a scam, then all your hard work and effort could go to waste! It’s imperative to keep clients and staff informed about safety precautions when working online.

How Big is the Problem?

Social media scams are becoming a bigger problem than ever. According to the creators of Norton security software, more than 8.5 Million networking scams took place in the past year. Most are designed to get in and out as fast as possible…with as much money as possible. That is where social media becomes highly risky. Unlike email which often requested a user to click on a link and buy something, social media is all about sharing information. It becomes difficult for less sophisticated users to differentiate between legitimate sharing and fraudulent sharing. Making it even more problematic, scammers may or may not ask the user to buy a product or service…many simply steal the information and then make money by selling that information to others. On the surface, it may appear that everything was quite innocent while the victim never even noticed their information being compromised.

What Type of Attacks?

According to Symantec, there are several different types of attacks associated with social media including:

1.  Copy and Paste Attacks – In this social media scam, users click on a link or post which unleashes malicious scripting that replicates the message on their wall. In turn, their friends then click on the same link or picture and spread it to their own wall and contacts.

2.  Manual Sharing Attack – Like that super great offer on a friends wall? It’s a valid method of social media marketing…except when it backfires. Instead of getting a great offer, the manual sharing attack simply replicate the message on the users wall and then in turn, infects their contacts. This is a major threat to legitimate business owners since users become leery of “liking” offers after having been burned by a scam attack.

3.  Like Jacking – Ever click on a link only to be taken to a page requiring identification input which then simply turns into a “like”? You have been like-jacked! It’s an irritating scam designed to do little more than collect a lot of likes…in fact, users have no choice but to play along because every action only lead to a “like”. Sadly, rather than liking anything, like-jack users usually end up hating it!

4.  Comment Jacking – This works similar to the “like-jacking” above except rather than generating a “like”, this requires the user to “register” or type in some characters which in turn, is added as a comment thread making it appear the user has contributed original thoughts or comments.

5.  @ replies and Direct Messages – Both of these basically attack users with malicious links via email or direct messages taken from social media accounts.

The Threat to Business

So, why should business owners care about social media scam and malware?

First, it might impact your own employees especially if they are not careful and cautious when using social media. Few things are more embarrassing than having to admit to clients that YOUR BUSINESS is the cause of all that spam and scam showing up on their social media feed. Ouch!

Next, clients may become less likely to click on legitimate offers after having been burned by a bad social media scam. Instead of your well placed program spreading like wildfire, it could be totally ignored out of fear of being burned once again. In short, social scams hurt legitimate business owners.

Finally, social media scams are becoming more sophisticated and even trying to mimic legitimate business offers. Remember phishing offers sent via email that look like they come from a credit card, mortgage or delivery servicing center? The logo and links all look so real! Today, the same is starting to show up on social media sites with carefully crafted (stolen) logo’s, links and “offers” that can lead to disaster. Fortunately, there are ways to guard against this type of practice. Ask your social media manager about company-wide alerts, how to protect photographs and logos’ and other security measures to keep your company and clients safe!

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