Staying cyber-aware: New social media scams to watch out for

Every day, Americans encounter scams, whether it’s via email, text, or social media. According to the Federal Trade Commission, nearly 2.8 million consumers reported a scam in 2021, the highest number of reports from 2001.

Ragib Hasan, Ph.D. (UAB)

University of Alabama-Birmingham expert Ragib Hasan, associate professor in the Computer Science department of the College of Arts and Sciences, warns that cybercriminals and scammers are using new persuasive techniques.

Out with the fake, in with the real

In the past, some cyber criminals have created fake accounts on social media platforms to conduct scams. But now Hasan’s research on cybercrime shows a change in the methods used.

“Instead of the fake accounts, scammers are now hacking individuals’ real social media accounts to improve their chances of successfully obtaining information or money,” he said.

To counteract this, Hasan suggests regularly updating your passwords on social media channels and enabling multifactor authentication for login when available.

20 questions for personal information

Cyber ​​criminals are looking for a way to get not only money but also information. Information such as your pet’s name, favorite teacher, and childhood best friend are examples of questions that can be used as security questions when a password is forgotten.

A recent example Hasan recalls is a social media post in which he asked, “My friend is looking for an old-fashioned girl’s name for her baby. Please enter your grandmother or mother’s maiden name.”

Using a real account and posting the question may cause friends and family to lose their guard and provide an answer, unaware that doing so could reveal password security answers.

Another technique scammers use is social media posts that say, “If you had $3,000 to spend, what would you spend it on?” We distribute money to 20 people.”

Once people reply, the scammer asks them to check their inbox and starts sending scam links or tricking them into further bogus scams.

To avoid this, Hasan suggests not to interact with such scammers or click on links contained in such posts and messages and to be careful when posting personal information that can be used to answer security questions.

One of the most popular social media scam techniques now is selling items. Hasan said this can change every day and it can be hard to tell which sellers are real and which are fake. An indication of this can be an item that is listed well below the usual asking price.

“An example of this is a car like a Jeep Wrangler that sells for $1,000, which is well below the normal price range,” Hasan said. “Another indicator of a scam is when the seller says the item is in Birmingham, but if you click on the seller’s profile you can see that the same car is being sold in 25 different cities. Scams like this are used to lure low-income people looking for a car in the highly competitive market.”

Hasan suggests doing some research about the seller or the company before buying. Also look at the website you are shopping on. If it’s a genuine offer, it will be listed on the retailer’s home page without you having to click the link.

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Trade Safe Zones

After avoiding fake sellers when buying online, the next task for most consumers is to find a safe place to meet the seller and collect the item. UAB offers the community the opportunity to securely buy, sell and trade goods on campus in the new Trade Safe Zone.

The zone is located in the UAB Police and Public Safety Department parking lot at 1117 14th St. S., has CCTV and a UAB Help Phone, and is well lit. The parking lot is marked with a sign and light green paint on the asphalt.

This story originally appeared on the UAB News website.