Below are five common scams on social networking sites, as reported recently by security company Symantec:
You’ve likely seen this one before – the dreaded chain letter has returned. It may appear in the form of, “Retweet this and Bill Gates will donate $5 million to charity!” Chances are, Bill Gates doesn’t need to post a chain letter to get a list of users or like-minded donors. Many well-meaning people pass these fake claims onto others. Break the chain and let the person who sent it to you know it’s likely to be a scam.
By their very nature, social media sites make it easy for us to stay in touch with friends, while reaching out to meet new ones. But how well do you really know these new acquaintances? That person with the attractive profile picture who just “friended” you and suddenly needs money is probably a thief looking for easy cash. Think twice before sending any money or even corresponding with this person. Sometimes an email comes from a “friend” who lost their wallet and needs you to send money right away. While this might be true, be wary as computers infected with malware often take a user’s contact list and send a bogus email to everyone on it. If you aren’t sure, call your friend and make sure to run an anti-virus program on your own computer.
“What type of STAR WARS character are you? Find out with our quiz! All of your friends have taken it!” Many users get duped by a seemingly-innocuous link like this. After you enter your name and phone number, you’ll not only find out that you are more Yoda than Darth Vader, you’ve also just unwittingly subscribed to service that charges $9.95 a month. These bait-and-switch scams tend to thrive on social sites.
The ever-popular phishing requests have become prevalent on social networking sites. You might get a message on your wall that says “Somebody just put up these pictures of you! Check ‘em out here!” If you click on the enclosed link, it will take you to your Twitter or Facebook login page. Stop! Once you enter your account information, a cyber criminal now has your password, along with total control of your account. Both the email and landing page were fake.
Beware of blindly clicking on shortened URLs. You’ll see them everywhere on Twitter, but you never know where you’re going to go since the URL (“Uniform Resource Locator,” the Web address) hides the full location. Clicking on such a link could direct you to your intended site, or it could be one that installs all sorts of malware on your computer. URL shorteners can be useful but be aware of their potential pitfalls and make sure you have real-time protection against spyware and viruses.