By Kyla Hunt
Last December, you may have read the Scamraiders article “Social Networking Scams –The Scammers are Staying Connected” (http://www.scamraiders.com/profiles/blogs/social-networking-scams-the
), which focused on scammers proliferating on Facebook. Unfortunately, the scammers are still out there, and now they are going to other social networking communities. Most recently, the microblogging site Twitter has been a hotspot for potential scammers looking to target trusting social media adapters.
First, let’s take a look at why online social communities are such inviting environments for scammers. The first is the problem of identification verification. Communities such as Facebook and Myspace can be great places to reconnect with friends and family, LinkedIn can be a great place to network, and Twitter and blogs can be helpful for obtaining information and news. Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that it is very difficult for these social media providers to verify that person’s identity. If you find an account that appears to be a friend or family member, it is essentially a leap of faith to believe that that person is who they say they are.
The second is the problem of something I’ll call hackability. Any business conducted online is at risk to be infiltrated by spam, malware, phishing, or hackers. If your Facebook or Twitter account is hacked into, it often requires a savvy friend pointing out suspicious messages coming from your account to even know something has gone wrong.
In order to protect yourself against the scammers who are taking up shop in these communities, and most recently inside Twitter, let’s first take a look at some examples of recent Twitter scams reported in the media.
On May 17, 2010, the Better Business Bureau issued an alert about money-making schemes proliferating on Twitter. To see the alert, go here: http://www.bbb.org/us/article/bbb-warns-against-twitter-money-makin...
This alert revolves around a work-from-home scheme that you may see on Twitter, via email, or on blogs. The scheme offers a large profit by Tweeting from home, but in reality requires you to buy a trial to an instructional CD-Rom… which if you do not cancel charges you $47 a month. This Twitter scam relies both on the public’s comfort with social media as well as the anonymity allowed when working in Twitter, email and blogs.
Another Twitter scam involved a slew of phishing attacks in February and March of 2010. According the Better Business Bureau (http://www.bbb.org/us/post/more-twitter-accounts-hacked-over-weeken...
) and the website Mashable (http://mashable.com/2010/03/06/twitter-accounts-hacked/
), hundreds of Twitter accounts were subjected to phishing attacks. These attacks would take over a user’s account and put out advertisements about things such as weight loss products. These attacks point to both the online world’s susceptibility to be hacked, as well as the idea that people may inadvertently take the advice of a tweet or a message with the mistaken belief that it was put out by a friend or acquaintance.
The good news is that Twitter did respond to these scams, reporting that they had a plan to combat the phishing attacks (http://blog.twitter.com/2010/03/trust-and-safety.html
While these actions by Twitter will surely make their online community safer, the very nature of the online environment requires people to be on the lookout for scams… after all, scammers are highly adaptable, and are always trying to find out new ways to con people.
Here are some things to be on the lookout when using Twitter and other social media:
1) Always make sure you know the person who is sending a link. If it is someone you have never met, the best practice is to shy away.
2) Even if you do know the person who sends you a link in a social media environment, think before you open it. Does the message seem to be written in the voice of the person who supposedly wrote it? If not, or if the topic of the message seems off, ask the supposed sender if they meant to put out the link.
3) When on Twitter, if a person you do not know follows you, look to see how many followers they have in comparison with how many people they follow. If they follow 3,000 people, but only have 1 follower, think before following them. Better yet, consider removing them from your followers – they may try to hack into your account.
4) If your account is hacked, or if you find something you believe to be a scam, report it to the social media in which it occurs. The Twitter contact page can be found here: http://twitter.com/about/contact
A great list about preventing social media scams can be found on Bloggernews: 10 Ways to Prevent Social Media Scams (http://www.bloggernews.net/122839
Remember: the online world can be a great place to have fun and connect with people; make sure you know who you are connecting with!