Who needs a class reunion when you can just catch up with old friends on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook? Social networking is a great way to connect with friends and colleagues, but it’s also a way criminals acquire information to lure people into hoaxes. The best protection is a healthy dose of skepticism. Here are 8 social media scams to avoid.
This scam, also known as “card popping,” is on the rise. Fraudsters use social media sites like Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook to run ads or contact victims directly via private message or text. They promise “legit ways to make thousands fast.” They may even pose as bank officials. Military members, students, new parents and bank customers are favorite targets.
How does it work? These scammers offer to pay potential victims money if they’ll allow checks to be run through their bank accounts. Then they request bank account information, the use of debit cards and even PINs. They’ll use reassurances like, “I need your info to deposit the checks.” Then the scammers make out with money from victims’ accounts, apply for credit in their names or both. Some red flags:
- You’re asked for account numbers, PINs or the use of your debit card, Social Security Number or other personal information
- You’re told if your bank contacts you, to confirm the transactions are legitimate (If you confirm with your bank that a transaction was legitimate when it wasn’t, you could be held liable.)
- You’re told to report your debit card lost or stolen
- You’re asked to transfer funds to a third party via Western Union or ACH
Credit Repair Scams
Have you ever seen an ad that promises “get a new credit identity”? Many of these ads guarantee they can get rid of negative credit information in your credit report or they can increase your credit score a specific number of points. But be careful. After receiving payment from your account, some of these companies may report all credit accounts, loans and inquiries in your name to the credit bureaus as fraudulent, even legitimate ones. That means you’d have to work with the credit bureaus and your financial institution to sort things out.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, be wary if a company:
- asks for your account number so they can “view your account”
- insists you pay them before they do any work for you
- tells you not to contact the credit reporting companies directly
- tells you to dispute information in your credit report—even if you know it's accurate
- tells you to give false information on your applications for credit or a loan
- doesn’t explain your legal rights when they tell you what they can do for you
If you’re looking for help in repairing your credit, the U.S. Department of Justice publishes a list of approved credit counseling agencies by state.
Job Offer Scam
Who wouldn’t want to earn a lot of money quickly, and with little effort? You’re contacted or see an advertisement on social media with an offer to “earn thousands” or for “guaranteed income,” and you’re curious. Then you’re asked to give personal information and pay a fee or buy a starter kit. You may be told, “We’ll need your bank account number so we can deposit your checks.” It’s a gradual process to try to get you to trust them. Be suspicious of:
- guarantees you’ll earn lots of money for a simple task (e.g., envelope stuffing)
- work-from-home opportunities (While work-from-home jobs do exist, they're generally found through companies themselves, not Twitter.)
- vague descriptions of the job or what is required
- requirements to pay money for information or materials, especially via money order, wire transfer or pre-loaded gift card
- requests for personal information, especially bank account and identification details (e.g., Social Security Number, driver license, passport)
Keep reminding yourself—if it’s “too good to be true,” it probably is.
Sometimes known as “catfishing,” scammers set up fake accounts on social media or dating sites and apps. These individuals never seem to be able to meet in person. Once the “relationship” with the victim progresses, the scammer will ask for money or hint they’re having money troubles. You may hear, “I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t have enough money for rent, and it’s due soon.” Once they have what they want, they disappear.
The 419 Scam Profile Hacking
A fraudster will use a hacked social media account and instant message people in the victim's network, posing as the victim. They might ask for money to be wired and promise to pay it back. Always verify these requests by speaking directly to the person who supposedly is sending the message. If you can't contact them directly, verify what you're being told with friends or others who are close to the person in question.
Seeing a message that you can “earn 10 times what you invested” sounds great, but is it true? ZeroFox, a social media security company, found that scammers often use Instagram and other networks to target military members, bank customers and others with promises of enormous profits in exchange for a small investment. Be alert to military- or bank-specific hashtags or teasers like #fastcash and #money. Don’t believe the “I can’t believe it really works!” testimonial posts. If someone tries to rush you into a choice by saying you have limited time to act, just say no.
Sweepstakes, Lottery and Prize Scams
According to a recent study by the Better Business Bureau, these scams are the most serious and the most common. Victims are told they’ve won money, but they need to pay a fee, usually by wire transfer, to receive their winnings. The BBB suggests:
- Don’t pay money to claim a prize
- Research the official website and call the lottery agency directly to see if you really won
Powerful, touching images of people in need and victims of disasters abound on social media. They make us want to do something. Unfortunately, there are criminals who take advantage of people’s natural desire to help. Many put up fake websites after a natural disaster. Others impersonate celebrities with charities. They all ask you for money. But just because a charity is on social media or your friend posted it, doesn’t mean it’s legit. These organizations can help you check it out:
- Internal Revenue Tax Exempt Organization Search (search for organizations where donations would be tax deductible)
- The National Association of State Charity Officials (list of state agencies that regulate charities)
- National Association of Voluntary Organizations
If you want to stay safe from hackers and scammers, always be cautious about unsolicited “opportunities.” If you didn’t contact them first, there’s a good chance scammers are at the other end. Never give out your personal information and never give money to someone you don’t know.
If someone requests your card or personal information and you’re unsure what to do, you can contact us 24/7 at navyfederal.org/security or 1-888-842-6328.
Navy Federal will never ask for your account information via social media—ever. Any message you receive from us on social media will come from one of our official accounts and will only be in response to a comment you posted. Our official Navy Federal social media accounts are:
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NavyFederal
- Twitter: @NavyFederal (https://twitter.com/navyfederal)
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/navyfederal
- LinkedIn: https://linkedin.com/company/navy-federalcredit-union