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Pull the plug on social media scammers

Proof of social media’s explosive popularity is in the numbers. In 2020, 80% of the US population had a social networking profile.

With the growth of social media, online scams have evolved. According to the FTC, reports of people losing money to scams that started on social media more than tripled in 2020.

To help stay safe online, learn to recognize these common social media scams.

Scam #1: Social media phishing

Scammers create fake social media posts and profiles to convince you to share your personal or financial information. The profile may use a real company’s name or logo, and often links to a fake website where you’re asked to enter your checking account or credit card number, SSN, or other sensitive information.

Common ploys include:

  • Requests to report vaccine side effects
  • Offers to receive grants or government benefits
  • Deep discounts on expensive products
  • Requests for charitable donations

If you provide your information to the scammer, it can be used to access your bank account, make fraudulent purchases, or steal your identity.

Other social media phishing tactics are quizzes that lure victims with clever questions such as “Which celebrity do you look like?” When you launch a quiz app, you may be unknowingly giving a third party access to your profile data that could be used to hijack your social media account or install malware.

Scam #2: Hacked profiles with requests for money

Instead of creating a fake profile, scammers may take over an existing one. This can happen when a scammer steals a username and password through a data breach, phishing, or malware. Scammers use the hacked profile to contact the person’s friends and family and ask for money or to promote a link to a fraudulent site they own. 

Scam #3: Online dating

Scammers create fake social media profiles and use the promise of love to trick naive victims into sending them money. They may use a fictional name or falsely assume the identities of aid workers, military personnel, or professionals working abroad.

Once they gain your trust, they may claim to need funds for an emergency or other hardship and convince you to share your account information or send money before disappearing.

Some telltale signs of this scam include poor or vague communication, flowery language, a small number of Facebook or Instagram pictures and posts, or a Twitter account with just a few tweets.

Scam #4: Card cracking and job scams

In card cracking schemes, scammers use social media to post opportunities to make "easy money" in a way they say is “legit.” They typically request your debit card and PIN and/or mobile banking username and password to deposit a fake check into your account. They may ask you to report your card lost or stolen or that your username and password have been compromised in order to seek reimbursement from your bank. In exchange, scammers promise you a portion of the money you deposit.

After gaining access to your account, scammers can transfer money or deposit phony checks and quickly make withdrawals before your bank identifies the bad checks. Not only are you robbed of your money, but you may also face hefty fines and criminal charges because your participation in this scheme makes you a co-conspirator.

In job scams, victims are promised a high-paying job in return for a small “advance fee” to secure a position that doesn’t actually exist. The phony employer may also send a new employee a fake check before their start date and require them to send some of the money back to pay for training or supplies. If the employee deposits the fake check, they will be responsible for the check amount and any money sent to the scammer.

Tips to help avoid social media scams

  • Do set your profiles to private and restrict your social media contacts to people you know personally.
  • Do be on the lookout for suspicious posts, including limited-time offers, discounts that seem too good to be true, and requests for personal or account information.
  • Do be wary of individuals you meet through social media sites, especially if they promise romance before you've met in person.
  • Do create a unique username and password for each app and website you use to help protect against unauthorized access across multiple accounts. 
  • Don’t accept friend requests from strangers.
  • Don’t respond to online solicitations for "easy money" and be wary of requests to send money back to an employer.
  • Don’t click on suspicious links, even in posts from people you know – their account may have been hacked.
  • Don’t fill out every field on your social media profile such as your phone number and home address – including these details increases the chance of identity theft should you be hacked.
  • Don’t send money to someone you have only met online. If you receive a request from a friend or family member for money, always contact them using a different method to make sure their profile was not hacked.

If you come across a social media account impersonating Wells Fargo, report it on Twitter to @Ask_WellsFargo or send us a private message on Facebook at facebook.com/wellsfargo.

See more warning signs of common scams.

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