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Avoid These Holiday Social Media Scams

Scam-alertAccording to USA Today, the holiday season is a big time for online scams, and this year the focus will be on phones and social media. While most of us can spot spam in our email inbox, social networking scams are becoming more common and aren’t quite as easy to detect. Research shows one in 10 users have fallen for a social media scam. And to be honest with you, I am one of those who have been duped. It seemed so simple: share an image on Instagram, add a hashtag and BAM…free Ray Bans. Needless to say, I never received the sunglasses.  Luckily, I quickly came to my senses and changed my password.

It’s easy to get caught up in a bogus offer, but remember if it seems too easy to be true…it likely is!

The naughty list.

Norton Internet Security says the top five social media scams fall into these categories: chain letters, cash grabs, hidden charges, phishing requests and hidden URLs.

  • Chain Letters: These posts encourage you to share something for a digital reward. “Share this riddle on Facebook and in five seconds you will see the answer.”
  • Cash Grabs: This one is probably the easiest to catch. If anyone, a friend, family or acquaintance, asks for money via social media, do not respond.
  • Hidden Charges: Quizzes or apps which require you to enter your cell phone number may unknowingly register you for services that charge a monthly fee. You won’t even realize it until you get your phone bill.
  • Phishing Requests: Scammers love baiting you to click links with statements like, “See what happens at the end of this unbelievable video.”
  • Hidden URLs:  Shortened URLs are popular on social media because they take up less space than the full URL. However, since you can’t see the full destination before you click, a shortened link could lead you to an unintended site.

At the heart of each of these scams is a simple formula: you click on a link, there is an unintended consequence (e.g., a scammer steals your information) and, the real kicker, you help spread it to all of your connections.

Holiday-themed spam.

Software security company McAfee recommends these additional tips for avoiding holiday-specific social media scams:

  • Watch for fake "holiday deals" from friends.
  • Be wary of apps geared toward the holidays that may give away your private data.
  • Look out for ads and special discounts for popular, seasonal items.

 If a post seems suspicious, let someone know. Most of the major social channels make it easy for you to report spam.

OK, enough with the Grinch.

Social media is a great way to keep in touch and reconnect with friends and family over the holidays. Now you are armed with some simple tips to stop those scammers in their tracks.

And speaking of connecting with family through social media…Honey, if you are reading this, I could still use those Ray Bans!

Interested in learning more about social media? Check out these AICPA social media user guides.

, Strategist, Social Media and Member Engagement, American Institute of CPAs. 

Scam alert image via Shutterstock

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