Published May 14, 2019.
Protect yourself against scams on photo-sharing app.
Fraudsters have found fertile ground on social media.
You’ve probably seen some of the scams: Earn $1,000 a week. Easy loans. No money to start. And while there are plenty of scams on Facebook and other sites, Andrea Parrish says Instagram is particularly ripe for fraud.
It’s all about how people use it, says Parrish, STCU’s digital brand manager.
"You don't have to know somebody to interact with them there. It’s an open ground for scammers," she says, whereas on Facebook, a friend request from a stranger would set off internal alarms.
Scammers target people who are stressed, tired, and worried about money. It can be easy to fall into a false sense of security. You start following someone because they’re posting gorgeous tropical photos, #vacationgoals. Then you feel like you get to know them — you see their breakfast, their adorable puppy. But in reality, those are probably stolen photos, Parrish says. Their insta-story is as fake as all that free money they’re going to send you, if you’ll just direct message them and deposit this check.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, says Jim Fuher, STCU’s fraud prevention manager. There are some red flags to watch out for with any social media scam:
- Phrases like "no money needed," "work from home," and "free money."
- Pictures of bank accounts with plenty of zeroes. Those are the accounts fraudsters stole from, right before they did it, Parrish says.
- Requests for online banking credentials. Or more subtle tricks, like asking your pet's name or your mother's maiden name. That could be just what a thief needs to hack into your account.
“If you do fall for a scam, alert your financial institution right away. ” Parrish says.
You can take steps to protect yourself:
- Keep your social media profiles private, and be selective about whom you allow to follow or friend you.
- Be skeptical of stories about wild success or fantastic earnings — and of any request from someone you don’t know well.
- Never give out online banking credentials. Often victims think they were only giving permission for the fraudster to make a deposit, Fuher says, but once in, the thief can see everything in online banking.
If you go to your credit union or bank and make a big withdrawal, you may encounter some questions from the tellers, Fuher said. They’re not being nosy; they’re on the lookout to protect you from fraud.
If you do fall for a scam, alert your financial institution right away. It’s hard, Parrish says. "You’re admitting you did something you feel is stupid. But it's not stupid until you try to hide it."
Victims also should file a complaint with local authorities or the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov, Fuher said. And change your passwords on everything.