*National Consumer Protection Week Advisory*
March 6, 2019
Carson City, NV – Today, Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford advises Nevadans on how to use social media safely to avoid falling victim to scams. Scammers on social media take advantage of the platforms’ interactive features to ensnare users into sharing their personal or financial information.
“Social networking sites are a great tool to connect with family members and friends across the globe, but with that convenience comes added opportunities for scammers,” said AG Ford. “During National Protection Week and beyond, I encourage Nevadans to exercise caution, and to remember that everything you post on social media can be seen by friends and scammers alike.”
The following are a few examples of social media scams:
Profile Mimicking and Hacking
Profile mimicking occurs when a scammer adopts a user’s real identity to create a fake profile. In order to craft this fake profile, scammers may use a person’s name, publicly available information and photos in order to trick the real user’s network of friends. Scammers may also hack into the person’s real profile after obtaining their password through a fake sign-in page. Once the fake profile is created, he or she may send friend requests or messages to the real user’s existing contacts and exploit the seemingly familiar relationship by asking the friend for money or by sending links to malware.
These fake profiles use real data, making their legitimacy difficult to assess. If you think you have already added someone as a friend, check your friends list before accepting a duplicate friend invitation. If you have the person’s phone number or email address, verify the request is real with a text or email message. Always exercise caution when clicking on links sent through messenger; remember that the person on the other end may not be the person you think it is.
Taking a quiz to find out which Star Wars or Harry Potter character you are may be fun, but sometimes those quizzes are an attempt to mine your personal information for profit. These quizzes could include links that surreptitiously share the quiz-takers data, or may ask questions similar to common security questions, such as your mother’s maiden name, high school mascot, or street where you grew up. Others may request access to your friends list or other personal information. Nevadans are encouraged to be skeptical of these allegedly free quizzes, and run a basic Google search to ascertain who created or maintains the quizzes.
Chain Message Hoaxes
This hoax involves a message meant to alarm users that something negative has happened or will happen to their accounts. The message may say that memories will be deleted, your information may be published publicly, or your profile has been hacked. Usually, this message actually comes from a well-meaning friend who forwarded the message out of panic. It may also appear to come from the social media platform itself through a fake profile. Nevadans are encouraged to think twice before clicking on any links within these messages, and to conduct research before taking action. Official announcements generally appear on the website itself, whether through the application, an email or via news alerts.
If you feel you have been victimized by any of these scams, please report your experience to the individual social media platforms. In general, Nevadans can exercise care when using all social media platforms by:
- Spending time exploring privacy controls to see who can see what. Most social media platforms default to public posting and require the user to adjust settings to make posts private. Consider limiting the amount of information that appears on your profile. Scammers may use any information you share against you or your loved ones.
- Limiting your friends list to people you know. Avoid accepting friend requests from strangers, and keep in mind that anything you post can be screenshot and shared with those outside of your friends list.
- Thinking about the contents of your post before making it public. Checking in to the locations you visit may give an indication to real-life thieves about your daily routine, where you live or where you work. Sharing your vacation photos in real time can alert thieves that you are away from home, and your house is potentially unoccupied. Additionally, sharing photos of your home may contain clues about valuables you own, who your family members are, or contain location data about where you live.