Protecting Yourself from Social Media Spam

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Facebook fake celebrity news scam. Photo via CSO Online.

As email spam and phishing become less lucrative, spammers are turning to the hot new thing: Social media. From Facebook and Twitter to Pinterest and LinkedIn, spam hides itself as posts and messages from your friends. Here’s how to spot it and how you can protect yourself.

Like its email counterparts, social media spam is any unwanted communication, mostly commercial in nature: bulk messages, malicious links, fake friends, or requests for personal information. Many times, the message will look like it’s coming from a friend, someone you trust.

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Twitter direct message spam. Photo via CSO Online.

According to Nexgate, social media spam has increased 355 percent since the beginning of 2013. And it’s no wonder: Social media spam is a moneymaker, about $200 million generated from Facebook spam alone.

The goal of social spam is the same as its email cousin: To extract personal information from you such as logins and passwords, social security numbers, bank information, etc.

With a skeptical eye, you can pick out social media spam. Here are some of the most popular schemes:

The 419 Scam: A message – appearing to be from a friend – tells you they’re traveling and stranded without money. They need you to wire them money right away to cover travel expenses home.

See who viewed your profile: Playing off Facebook users’ desire to see which friends are looking at their profile pages, this scam tells you that clicking “like” or downloading an application will let you see who has viewed your page. Instead, you’re led to a malicious website, application, or survey site that may ask for personal information or propagate the scam.

Controversial videos: We’ve all seen these on Facebook: “Dad walks in on daughter.” “Justin Beiber stabbed.” Click to see the video – which doesn’t exist, by the way – and you’ve played right into the spammer’s plan. Along the same vein as this scam: Fake celebrity news.

Twitter direct messages: A direct message from someone you’re connected to on Twitter tells you something intriguing: “Is that you in this picture?” “Check out this video of you!” Don’t fall for it – clicking the link will lead you to a malicious website.

How can you protect yourself from social media spam scams? Use the same skepticism you do when faced with a suspicious email:

  • You can’t believe everything you read. If it’s too good or outrageous to be true, it probably is.
  • Just because the message comes from a friend, doesn’t mean it’s actually from that friend. Verify with that person independently to be sure.
  • Don’t click on any link you don’t recognize or are unsure about. When in doubt, contact the person or company who supposedly posted the link.
  • Be careful what information you share online and create strong passwords for your social media accounts. Read our tips for creating strong passwords.

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