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In Online Communities

Fraudsters and Social Media

Written by Kelley Keehn

Friday, March 22nd, 2019

Social media sites are great ways to keep connected and network. But a fraudster could be using familiarity with your online identity to gain access to your computer, steal your personal information and get you to click on malicious links that infect your computer.

If you need a primer on how to protect yourself from phishing attacks, click here for more information.

What are the Red Flags?

Dr. Tom Keenan, Professor at the University of Calgary and author of the best-selling book, Technocreep says, “Social media is a treasure trove of information for fraudsters. Remember that friend request from a person you didn't recognize? The odds are good that it's not even a person, but a bot seeking to get access to your information."

What Could a Fraudster Want?

"If it's on a business site networking site, the bad guys may be trying to figure out who within your company has the ability to send a wire transfer, so they can try to trick them into sending money with a faked email from the boss. Or maybe they want to know where you live? A photo of your house, or your car might give out personal information that you really don't want to share."

These are just some of the newer ways fraudsters are collecting your information. They're less known, but just as with the more common phishing, ransomware, malware and spyware attacks, you still need to be wary of them.

Fraudsters are Getting So Much Sneakier

There are even more devious possibilities, like looking for what school your child attends so they can then send a fake phishing email pretending it's from the principal, for example, to gain your trust.

Tom gives this example: “You get an email from someone claiming to be a parent who took some great photos of your child at the XYZ school's soccer match (and the schedule for that is conveniently posted online for a scammer to find). Of course, you instantly open the link and, boom, your computer is infected with malware that sends your confidential information to a criminal somewhere on the other side of the world."

Be Careful With Photos

“Photos are a rich source of information too," notes Tom. “Where you live, what kind of car you drive, and more. For example, if a car dealer you don't recognize calls you up or emails you telling you that your car (and names your make, model and year), is due for an oil change - be suspicious."

We live in a world where we must be cautious about emails and links since the downsides, getting infected with malware or having your computer held for ransom, are both real and getting more and more common.

If you don't recognize the sender, ignore or discard the email. If it's really important, they'll send it again or contact you in some other way.

Top Ways to Protect Yourself:

  1. Never give anyone info over the phone or via email.
  2. If you suspect there's an issue, call or contact the person or company in question yourself, and not from a link or phone number listed in the email, but rather the company's official website.
  3. Pause and slow down when accepting invitations on social media.
  4. Never click on a link or attachment you're not 100% sure isn't a phishing attack, even if it's coming from what you think is a trusted source or a friend. If you're unsure, contact the sender directly by phone or in a new, separate email.
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