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How to Stay Alert and Safe with Social Media

By: Total Computer Solutions

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There are worse dangers on social media than getting friends angry at you. If scammers get their way, you can lose control of your account, let malicious software onto your computer, give a crook your personal information, and lose money. Always stay alert, so you won't fall prey to a Facebook scam like any of these.

Hijacked accounts

A lot of scams start by getting control of a legitimate account. Some people use passwords that are easy to guess, and fake login request trick others. The hijacker will use their friends' trust to make them fall for tricks.

Another trick is to create a new account with the same name as a real person and then send friend requests to the existing account's friends. Be careful if a request seems to come from someone you've already friended. If the posts from an account seem impersonal or out of character, there could be something wrong.

Clickbait links

A post claiming to link to a sensational news story or photo could be there just to lure people to a page that will download malware. A common trick is to claim that the content is a video that needs a new browser plug-in. The "plug-in" will actually steal your information or mangle files on your computer and demand a ransom.

The page might initially have harmless content, to build up likes. After it's gotten enough to look legitimate, the scammer will activate the malicious feature.

<< Read 4 Social Media Scams That Could Cost You A Lot of Money >>

Dubious applications

Third-party Facebook applications can do useful and entertaining things, but some have no purpose except to trick you. They run on Facebook's servers and can't directly do anything to your computer, but they can trick you the same way clickbait links can. They take advantage of people's assumption that Facebook has approved them. The Facebook staff does check them over, but some nasty ones sneak through.

Fake offers

You know the saying about offers that seem too good to be true. Do your online buying only from sellers you can trust, even if the offer in front of you looks a lot better. Be careful whom you give your credit card number to.

Be especially careful of ads that require picking the item up in person. Dealing in cash and in person is safer in some ways, but the aim might be to get you to a dark place and rob you. If you go for that type of deal, make sure the place looks safe. Don't be ashamed to back out at the last minute if it feels wrong.

Email threats

A password hijacker can harvest the email address of the account holder, as well as their friends' addresses. They might get a message, supposedly from their friend, claiming to be stuck in some city with no money and begging for help. The "help" consists of wiring money to an account.

Anyone who falls for it will just lose the money. The scammer hopes people will run to help first and think later.

How to stay safe

Avoiding social media scams requires always being a bit skeptical. Is that post really from who it claims to be? Why are you being asked for your password? Should you download that software update? Here are some rules that will keep you safe from most tricks:

  • Take good care of your own account. Use a strong password, and be alert for tricks to get it out of you. Make sure you're actually on the site you think you're on.

  • Download software only from trusted sites. If you get an alert saying you need a software upgrade, it could be real. But go to the site where you got the software to check.

  • Don't accept every friend request you get. Crooks will friend you just so you'll see their posts luring you to malicious websites.

  • Watch out for out-of-character posts. Maybe your friend is just in an odd mood, but don't let a post goad you into careless action. Think first.

  • Keep your computer safe. You might download something nasty even if you're careful, so install anti-malware software on your computer and keep it up to date.

Enjoy exchanging news with your friends and playing online games, but always be alert.

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