How to protect yourself against fake debt collectors and other social media scams
Social media is a place most of us go for fun. Maybe we’re bored in the office and looking for a way to pass the time. Or we’re at home, happily scrolling during the ad breaks of our favorite shows.
But something more sinister is now on the rise across our social media channels. Over the last year, scammers have taken to social media and found it a fertile hunting ground for unsuspecting people.
Whether it’s a fake debt collector sliding into your DMs, or someone offering you the chance to invest in cryptocurrency, social media scams are on the rise in Canada. In this blog, we’ll explain what social media scams are, why they’re a growing problem, and how you can protect yourself.
What are social media scams?
At their essence, social media scams – or phishing scams – are instances when scammers contact people via social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and try to extort them.
There are various different scams being used for that purpose, but they usually share a common thread – impersonation.
Using fake accounts, fake names, and fake profile images, scammers pretend to be somebody they’re not, whether that’s a family member, a love interest, or even a trusted organization like Canada Post.
They then make contact with people over direct message and attempt to gain their trust, before asking for sensitive information. Social media scammers have successfully convinced people to share everything from their bank details, to tens of thousands of dollars.
Why are social media scams on the rise in Canada?
According to the University of Toronto, research shows that instances of online phishing tend to increase during times of crisis. Given the events of the last two years, it’s easy to understand why social media scams are skyrocketing right now.
The pandemic drove entire swathes of the country in doors, meaning for millions of Canadians, the internet – and social media in particular – became one of the best ways to stay connected to friends and loved ones.
As well as increasing in volume, online scams are also increasing in their sophistication, with scammers able to use more advanced software and techniques to credibly present themselves as figures of authority even to more online-savvy individuals.
What are some of the most common social media scams going around?
There are as many scams as there are scammers, and online scams are growing more sophisticated, but here are three of the most common scams of the moment.
Debt collection scams
In late 2021, there was a rule change under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Since it has gone into effect, debt collectors have been able to contact people via direct message on social media.
This has given rise to scams where bad actors posing as debt collectors pop up in peoples’ direct messages demanding money for debts they don’t actually owe.
Cryptocurrency scams typically involve the victim being convinced to invest in a fake cryptocurrency. The scammer will often promise large returns on investment, or claim that the cryptocurrency is about to go mainstream.
Once the victim has invested, they will lose their money, as the cryptocurrency is not real. Cryptocurrency scams can also be used to steal personal information or to install malware on the victim’s computer.
Online dating scams
A subject that’s come to global attention recently with the release of the Netflix documentary The Tinder Swindler, sadly online dating scams are only too common.
The premise is simple. A cyber scammer will reach out to someone under the guise of beginning an online relationship. They’ll gain that persons’ trust and before long they will come up with a scenario which involves that person wiring them money as a matter of urgency.
What can I do to protect myself from social media scams?
Don’t make all your information public
To you, posting about eating out at your favorite restaurant, or sharing a picture of you and your friends at a bar, is just a bit of fun. To a scam artist, on the other hand, it’s the kind of information they’ll use to make their scam – and the character they inhibit – more believable. That’s not to say you shouldn’t post on social media; just be mindful of who can see what you’re sharing.
Update software and security systems
Those constant update notifications you get on your phone or laptop are annoying, we get it. But they do serve a purpose. By accepting these updates, you’re ensuring that you have the most advanced security protecting your software and systems, which makes life more difficult for scammers.
If it looks suspicious, don’t open it
We’ve all read a text or an email that just doesn’t quite seem right. Maybe it’s a turn of phrase, or the email signature, but there’s a red flag being raised somewhere in the back of your mind. 9 times out of 10 you’re probably smart enough to ignore it, but scammers are counting on that tenth time when you finally let your guard down. So if it looks suspicious, don’t open it.
Where can I get support if I’ve lost money through a social media scam?
If you’ve been the victim of a social media scam that has left you with mounting bills and missed payments, we may be able to help.
A. Fisher & Associates is a Licensed Insolvency Trustee that specializes in helping people in Ontario get their finances back on track.
Our team of money advisers can offer you free advice on how to improve your financial situation, and can even help you set up a repayment plan that will take care of your unpaid debt and allow you to look forward to a brighter financial future.
For free, impartial advice from a friendly adviser, get in touch with us today.