Social media is a great way for writers to build their author platforms and connect with fans, readers, literary agents, and editors. But beware: It also puts your personal information and privacy at risk. A recent survey found that 22% of Internet users reported being hacked at least once.
At Web Design Relief, we understand the importance of following best practices and protecting yourself against common social media scams. Here’s how to stay safe and reduce your odds of becoming a victim.
Common Social Media Scams—Don’t Be Fooled
Profile hijackers take over a victim’s account but keep the profile and images. Then they use the hijacked information to create other accounts. Once the hackers secure a connection with family and friends of the victim, they use scam tactics to try to get money. The hijacker, who is now posing as the hijacked victim, will reach out with fake emergencies that need fast cash. Don’t fall for the scam: I’m on vacation and lost my wallet. Can you wire money or send cash? Another version states: I’m out of town. Can you buy a gift card for my niece’s/nephew’s birthday gift for me? Be suspicious of anyone asking you for money on social media.
Friends, if you receive a notice on social media that you have won a new car, or a diamond ring, or a bag of cash, please investigate before you start celebrating. If you have to pay, it’s not a prize. Lottery scams are becoming more and more cunning each day. What they all have in common is that you are asked to purchase something or send money in order to retrieve your big prize. Be alert. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Here are signs you should run the other way if you have been notified that you are the big winner:
- You are asked to pay for something
- You are required to wire money
- You must first deposit a check that will be sent to you
Catfishing is less about fishing (unless you are fishing for compliments) and more about phony romancing. Catfish create fake online profiles and then seduce victims into fictitious relationships. Once they gain your trust, they work on gaining gifts and your money. Interesting fact: 64% of catfish are women. Don’t get caught by catfish no matter how many shiny lures they wave in front of you!
URL shorteners are a convenient way to make a longer URL fit into a limited amount of space. However, they can also mask malicious sites that drop spyware into a user’s computer without the victim ever realizing. If you have concerns about clicking on a link, there are sites such as CheckShortURL that will allow you to see the original link before you click on it.
Chain Messages Hoaxes
Chain mail messages have been around forever—but they’ve never been more dangerous. Though they are no longer written on paper and sent via snail mail, chain mail scams are still prevalent on social media. Cybercriminals threaten that something will happen to users’ data if they don’t forward the message to friends. Or that an account has been cloned and certain steps need to be taken in order to secure it. One of the steps is informing all your friends of this, which ultimately hands over all your contacts to the hacker. Snapchat and Facebook both have been affected by chain-letter scams. Avoid this by immediately deleting any and all chain mail messages.
Who doesn’t love an online quiz—they’re harmless and fun, right? Wrong. The Better Business Bureau cautions that many quizzes are designed to mine your computer’s data. Everything from addresses to debit purchases and bank statements. Cybercriminals embed links in quizzes to gain access to personal information stored on your computer. Once these criminals have what they need, they employ other scams such as profile hacking and catfishing to steal your money and/or furtively subscribe you to monthly services billed to your credit card. If you can’t resist a quiz, make sure it comes from a reliable source.
Here’s a fill-in-the-blank quiz for you from Web Design Relief:
If it seems too good to be true, _____ _____.
Money flipping is not new, but scammers are perfecting new ways to do it. Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are notorious for users advertising ways to turn a few hundred dollars into a few thousand. They show the happy faces of investors enjoying their profits while basking in the sun on their yachts. It’s simple: All you do is send a prepaid debit card number and pin to a certain email or number so the investor will have access to load money. But fraud experts warn that the only people making money off this deal are the scammers who collect the information and go shopping.
Especially For Writers: Avoid These Publishing Scams
There are new scams surfacing every day. Writers, in particular, are vulnerable to publishing scams, especially those involved with self-publishing. Some vanity publishers have earned a reputation for charging exorbitant fees. And there are hybrid printers who charge smaller fees but increase royalties to supposedly offset your cost. For book writers pursuing traditional publishing, there are literary agents who might make you think twice about entrusting them with your work. Find out how to spot a bad literary agent.
For more tips on how to stay safe while on social media, check out our guide: Safety Tips for Social-Networking Writers.
Question: What social media scams have you encountered?