Social media phishing is targeting students

Posted By David Pollino In Your Finances | No Comments

The huge popularity of social media among college students makes some major sites very attractive to fraudsters.

5 college students walking together and talking on a fall day. [1]I’ll share details about some of the top scams, but first, here are a few good practices to follow:

  • Be suspicious: Even an email or notice which appears to come from someone you know well could be a fraudster who has your details via malware.
  • Take care with ads and other links: You could be enabling malware or allowing hidden costs to be charged to your phone account.
  • Take care with “official” alerts, especially ones that appear to be from banks: Notices that appear official, requesting your help or your personal information, are likely to be from cybercriminals.
  • Protect your identity: Don’t overshare personal information. Criminals can construct an identity from your information and pretend to be you, possibly causing you major problems down the line.
  • Ignore offers that look too good to be true (e.g., free iPad or vacation). They likely are too good to be true and are often a way of enabling malware or obtaining your personal information.

Read on for a list of some current scams to watch out for.

Cash grabs – You get an urgent request from someone you know for cash due to some misadventure (e.g., a stolen purse). You send the money but in fact the request was bogus. It may have looked legitimate, but the truth is it was sent by a malware-infected computer. If you receive anything like this, make a call to find out the facts. Also make sure your computer isn’t infected as well.

Card cracking – This begins with an approach from someone you don’t know asking you to whether they can put some money into your bank account. If you allow the payment, you’re promised a cut. Such an approach is most likely card cracking, which is illegal. Fraudsters put stolen or counterfeit checks in bank accounts belonging to others, and then quickly withdraw the funds before the bank detects the checks are phony. The accountholder colludes with the scammer for a cut. Here’s a simple tip to avoid becoming a victim or unwitting accomplice: Never hand over your bank cards, PINs, or online banking credentials to anyone. Here’s an earlier post with more information on card cracking [2] and another scam known as straw buying.

Straw buying – Straw buying is making a purchase on behalf of another person. Frequently, the real buyer has poor credit and cannot obtain financing for the purchase – perhaps a house or car — so they approach someone with better credit and ask that person, the straw buyer, to apply for the loan. The loan is in the name of the straw buyer, with the real buyer promising to make all the repayments and possibly also compensating the straw buyer for the use of his or her credit.

If you are asked to borrow money on behalf of someone else, consider the risks. First, obtaining funds with intent to defraud the lender can land the perpetrators in jail. Second, you, as the straw buyer, may be held legally responsible for the debt you incurred on another’s behalf.

Win a free phone! – Social media scammers create a fake account under the name of a well-known business and then claim to be hosting a giveaway. They may ask you to send a text message or provide personal information for a chance to win. Never click these kinds of links if you’re unsure of their origin. Visit the official website and look for social media links to verify that accounts are legitimate.

Your user account has been canceled – You may occasionally get emails claiming to be from social media sites informing you that your account has been canceled. You click on a link that is then used to install malware or phish for information. If you think an email may be legitimate, go to the relevant social networking site directly to access your account and deal with the issue rather than clicking that link.

Clever games – Beware games with introductions such as “What type of friend are you? Find out with our quiz!” These are often a way of selling you something you probably don’t want. If you supply your info, you’ll find out that you’ve just unwittingly subscribed to a “service” that charges $9.95 every month. These bait-and-switch games often thrive on social sites.

Phishing alert -You get an email with some photos of you that “… you must take a look at.” You click on the link, land on one of your social media login pages, enter your account info, and … a cybercriminal now has your password along with control of your account. The landing page was fake. A variation on this is a suspicious invitation to view another profile. It’s common sense to be wary of any links that ask you to sign in again when you’re already signed on to the network.

Sites that attract a significant number of visitors are going to lure in a criminal element, too. Learn what to look for, take extra care, and use antivirus and spyware protection to help defeat the fraudsters and stay safe on social media.

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