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Be vigilant against social media scams

In my last column, we enumerated some of the more popular scams that populate social media apps like Twitter, Facebook, Tinder, YouTube and Instagram. Filipinos have taken to accessing these apps on their smartphones or laptops with regularity like ducks to water.

Thus, the Philippines has emerged as one of the hotspots of scammers scouring the web for gullible victims. You will be surprised at the lengths these unscrupulous people will go through just to earn a few bucks.

Worse, Filipinos are too unaware of the dangers lurking behind those seemingly innocuous invitations to peek into new sites or to purchase health products. Therefore, there is a need to make social media habitués to be more aware of what they can be up against.

So how should we, who cannot live without social media nowadays, protect ourselves? Below are several tips culled from various authoritative sources on what to do to be safe from these lurking Internet scammers.

Protecting oneself

WikiHow has come up with a dozen suggestions which I believe are fundamental rules that one needs to abide with if you are a person who accesses social media apps.

First off, understand your privacy settings. Most social networks have privacy settings on their menu so you can control the persons who want to see or access your personal information, photos, and posts.

Unless you’re a social personality (actor, politician, cult leader, blogger), you don’t need to have the whole world following you. Giving every one access to your page is allowing yourself to be victimized by scammers.

Therefore, the safest way to live without headaches is to allow only people you know into your social network. Do not accept friendship or network requests from people you do not recognize.

Keep the list of friends and acquaintances on your social media pages manageable. Be sure you know who they are. Don’t accept just anyone to see your posts and pages.

Be careful with what you post. And this is not just putting obscene language. When you post photos of your expensive personal belongings, or your lavish parties or extravagant jaunts, this will attract scam artists to target you.

Be very careful with the kind of personal information you leave on your social media sites. More importantly, never mention your mother’s maiden name or date of birth.

Be cautious of links

Should you come across prompts on your social networking sites that ask for personal information, be wary. This includes free apps, quizzes, or promo coupons that need to be downloaded and ask for your date of birth, social security number, or home address.

Delete links you do not trust. Often, they will be links to viruses or even to scammers waiting for a bite. Especially when using smartphones, the chances of accidentally clicking on these unreliable sites are high.

Never transact money matters over any social media sites. Instead, go direct to the website of the commercial establishment or charity institution when dealing with purchases or donations. Best to verify the veracity of who you are transacting with by phone or email.

Be careful with accessing social media sites using public computers like airports or cyber cafes. Logging in on social media sites using public computers is not always safe because your login information may be stolen, and maliciously consequently used.

Importantly, always change your password on a regular basis. Choose a reliable password that follows recommendations on length and use of caps and numbers. This is a great deterrent against hackers and scammers.

Be wary of requests for assistance, especially of money, over social networks. Instead, call that friend directly to verify his plea for help.

Social networking sites like Facebook have age restrictions for users, and rightly so. While our children may often be more savvy with smartphones and computers, they are not always aware of the dangers of dealing with scammers or scam mail.

Another important tip is making sure your security software and firewalls are up to date. Of course, this goes without saying that using a good brand of security program is as important.

Finally, remember that your mobile phone is also susceptible to scam artists. Therefore, avoid answering texts or messages from numbers you do not recognize.

When transacting …

From onlineonguard.gov, here are some additional tips when transacting purchases online.

1. Know who you’re dealing with.

Find out the seller’s physical address (not just a P.O. Box) and phone number. With mobile phones and other web-based call and text technologies, it’s difficult to tell the real identity of the person(s) at the other end of the line.

Learn more about the company through further online searches, and look for negative reviews. This will help you decide if there are risks in dealing with the company.

2. Read your monthly statements.

Scammers steal account information and then run up charges or commit crimes in your name. Dishonest merchants bill you for monthly “membership fees” and other goods or services without your authorization. If you see charges you don’t recognize or didn’t okay, contact your bank, card issuer, or other creditor immediately.

3. Deal with established charities for donations.

When a call for donations is raised for help during periods of disasters, deal only with established charities. Pop-up charities would most probably be bogus, and worse, they could be collecting money to finance illegal activity.

4. Consult your doctor before buying health products or treatments.

There are many placebos that sell heaven but actually are worthless. Check with your doctor before deciding to buy anything.

5. Be prudent about investment opportunity offers.

If someone contacts you with low-risk, high-return investment opportunities, stay away. When you hear pitches that insist you act now, that guarantee big profits, that promise little or no financial risk, or that demand that you send cash immediately, beware. It’s sure to be another scam.

Facebook and Twitter

We are actively using two social networking websites to reach out more often and even interact with and engage our readers, friends and colleagues in the various areas of interest that I tackle in my column. Please like us at www.facebook.com and follow us at www.twitter.com/ReyGamboa.

Should you wish to share any insights, write me at Link Edge, 25th Floor, 139 Corporate Center, Valero Street, Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City. Or e-mail me at reydgamboa@yahoo.com. For a compilation of previous articles, visit www.BizlinksPhilippines.net.

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