Social media is a great way to connect with friends, family, and limited discounts. Marketers and advertisers understand that most of your online activity is being relegated to sites like Twitter and Facebook, and they’re happy to crash the party with buckets upon buckets of ads. You’ve probably gotten used to seeing discount deals, raffles, and product surveys on your Facebook feed this Christmas season, but just because something is familiar does not mean that it is safe.
Don’t trust everything on your Facebook feed.
Facebook as a platform has very little barriers to access: anybody can create an account as long as they have an email and an alias. From there, all scammers have to do is post nifty-looking deals with a pretty picture or meme attached, and the Facebook community will do the hard work of sharing, liking, and advertising for them.
Even if you trust the person who shared the potentially-fraudulent post—which could be a fake coupon, travel package, or even a fake gift exchange— you can’t always be sure that they’ve done their research or even realize that they’re advertising a scam. People aren’t likely to do their research ahead of sharing or liking something on Facebook because then what’s the point of sharing or liking to save time? Always treat a share or a like as a reaction, NOT a trustworthy endorsement. If something looks suspicious to you, or the deal is too good to be true, don’t be afraid to do your own research and contact your friend with your concerns! They’ll probably post on their wall a warning about the item or an apology for sharing it, and they’ll be more likely to be on the lookout for similar scams in the future.
Be on the lookout for fake posts.
Before liking or sharing any Facebook deals—such as coupons, and discount or travel packages—always check if the deal is being advertised by the brand or store’s official Facebook account. Thankfully, you can do this without clicking on the link (which could potentially install malware on your device) by going directly to the store’s Facebook account. The page should have a blue checkmark next to the name, indicating that it’s been verified by Facebook. Scroll through the latest posts to find the advertised deal, and if you can’t find it, it’s probably a bust.
You can also go directly to the account responsible for the post and check if that’s legitimate. If the account has zero reviews, or lacks any contact information such as a phone number, email, or company address, you probably shouldn’t trust it. If you don’t recognize the store or brand name, research it ahead of time and check for customer reviews—if they don’t have any reviews, or only poor reviews, it’s probably a scam.
Protect your personal information by avoiding fake apps, surveys, and quizzes.
Apps that require you to register or login with your Facebook account can gain access to your email, phone number, address, likes, shares, and even your calendar. Marketers use this data for targeted advertising. Hackers and information thieves, on the other hand, use this data to gain access to your credit cards, bank accounts, and other financial reservoirs. They can even sell it online to people who know how to take all the disparate elements of your Facebook account for identity fraud.
A simple quiz or survey requiring date of birth, name, and address can help them unravel passwords or gain access to other accounts. They can hack websites that mine Facebook data, or mine that data directly by setting up fake apps that require a Facebook login or credit card information. These are especially popular around the holidays, as discount-generating app downloads become more common.
Be skeptical of unreal or unsolicited deals. Avoid unfamiliar brands or online store. Go directly to a store’s official, familiar site instead of using third-party links on Facebook or questionable apps. And if you’re going to remember one thing from this article, it’s that you SHOULD NOT trust something just because you see it on Facebook. Social media is a great way to connect with friends and family, but it’s also a great way for hackers, spammers, and information thieves to gain access to your personal information—and through that, to your identity, your credit score, and your financial security.