Love it or hate it, social media is very much part of our lives. Many of us rely on it to keep connected, especially during lockdown, but with growing popularity comes a greater chance of falling victim to fraud.
Incredibly, social media usage at the start of 2020 was estimated to be at 3.6 billion people worldwide; a figure forecast to grow to 4.4 billion in 2025. That's according to Statista Research Department; a provider of market data.
It's an amazing number of users, and is even more remarkable when you consider that joining social media sites is limited to those aged 13+.
Problem is, a growing group of users brings a greater chance of fraud. And there are individuals, groups and some organisations that are using social media for all the wrong reasons.
Some social media scams are designed to get you to input your personal details by appearing to be genuine through the use of logos and official looking documents like terms and conditions. Interacting with these pages or adverts could send your personal information to third parties, as well as sharing a link with your friends list. Your friends and family are then more likely to fall for the scam because it appears to have come from you; a trusted source.
Action Fraud states that it has received a growing number of reports from victims that have received messages through Facebook Messenger that appear to be from people on their friends list. The messages ask for the use of their PayPal account to receive funds for high value items sold on eBay, such as cameras and laptops. The messages say that either they do not have a PayPal account or it's not working. As the request appears to be from a friend, victims will usually agree and then transfer the money to an account controlled by the fraudster. However, the sale is cancelled, leaving the victim out of pocket. Between 1 June 2020 and 31 July 2020, total losses for this kind of crime amounted to just over £44,000.
Quizzes on Facebook and Twitter
We've all seen quizzes appear on our timeline. Find out which celebrity you look like, which royal you were in a previous life, or answering questions that seem innocent and posting the answers to share with friends. A lot of these have hidden threats, such as terms and conditions that allow the data to be passed to a third party, or they're asking questions that are commonly used as security questions by banks and other businesses. Providing this information willingly could enable a fraudster to open an account in your name.
Many of us are careful about who we add as friends, but fraudsters can pose as one of your friends by using photos online and send a friend request along with a message that they've lost the details for their old account. Check who you're talking to by phoning them or asking them something only they could know.
It's not just Facebook users that are being targeted. During June 2020, Action Fraud received 164 reports from Instagram users about fraudulent investment schemes that have resulted in a combined financial loss of nearly £360,000.
In this scam, victims received an instant message about requiring a small investment to trade on the stock market, with claims that the investment will have been multiplied within days and funds will be paid back, after deducting a commission for the service.
However, after the initial investment has been transferred, the victim is told that their money cannot be returned unless more money is sent; usually by bank transfer or through a cryptocurrency platform, which means it is very difficult to retrieve. Eventually, the suspect blocks the victim so that no more messages can be received.
So what can you do?
Messages asking for assistance with financial transactions may not be as innocent as they appear. Although the message looks to be from someone you know, it's worth checking that they really did send the message to you. Call them, or ask them in person, but don't use the message platform they used to contact you in case their account has been hacked.
Too good to be true
If you're promised a competition prize or a large return for a small investment, it's probably too good to be true. Do not send your personal details or money to someone that you don't know or trust, and do not allow them to use your account to move funds.
Ask for advice
If you're uncertain about what to do, speak to a friend or a member of your family, or seek professional advice before making a decision.
For more suggestions about how to stay safe online, including measures we take to keep your information private, take a look at What we do to protect you.