Beware of social media scams

BIZLINKS - Rey Gamboa (The Philippine Star) - May 9, 2016 - 10:00am

Having a strong social media culture has its downsides, and this is not just about being distracted from office, school, or house work. Undeniably, just about anybody with a smartphone nowadays will lose time browsing through popular social media sites like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram or Twitter.

But the more pressing issue with Filipinos’ love affair with social media is their lack of awareness of the scams that come with using these immensely popular sites.

We’ve taken a peek at some of the social media scams Filipinos should stay away from. Here’s a list and a short description of the top scams from

1. Tinder scams

Tinder is one of the hottest apps that allow users to meet other people with same interests. One scam involves a bot invites a user to an adult webcam show, but asks for credit card details. The bot then sends a link and asks the user to click through. Users get charged from $40 to $80 for every day beyond the first three-day trial period.

Tinder also gets fake prostitution profiles where there is text over the image saying, “GFE” (girlfriend experience) with a URL and a username. Again, visiting the clickable site will mean having to pay money for continued use.

There are also spambots that request to install apps, specifically games. If you are tempted to install, there are charges.

2. Fake Google+ invitations

While Facebook and Twitter play host to the majority of social media scams, according to Fabio Assolini, a senior security researcher at Kaspersky Lab’s Global Research and Analysis Team, there are plenty of scams that can be found elsewhere.

Scammers send out fake invites to Google+ that contain malicious links to malware, specifically bank Trojans. Clicking on the link opens a form that invites friends to join. The scam collects names and emails of those invited friends, and they become new victims.

3. Instagram lottery scam

Another popular app is Instagram. It’s been under attack recently by multiple scams. One promises money from a supposed lottery winner who would want to share his luck with other people. Once you leave your email addresss, the scammers give instructions on how to get the money as soon as 99 cents for mail delivery is paid.

The seemingly funny thing about this is that it seems to be a joke. But some people actually fall for it.

4. Shocking news

Scammers use this theme to get one to click on a link. An example of shocking news is a recent plane crash like the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 inviting one to view the last dying seconds of flight. The link, of course, doesn’t lead to a video, but to pop-up filled sites or offensive content.

5. Requests through Snapchat

Snapchat spam involves scammers sending photos with a caption instructing the user to fill up some forms, which leads to a website that pushes diet spam, or going to an external site to announce that they have won a prize and how to claim it.

6. Facebook Messenger worms

Instant messaging worms are being disseminated on Facebook Chat and used to spread links to malware. When the user clicks on the link in the message, a malicious applet is installed and used to download a number of other files, including code that can steal users’ Facebook passwords.

Once a user is infected, the worm can also spread the malicious link through other messaging apps and social networks, including Google Talk, Orkut, and Twitter.

7. Diet pill scam

If you’re interested in dieting, you might fall for this one. Currently making the rounds on Pinterest and Tumblr is a magic diet pill endorsed by a celebrity. If you believe the promise supposedly given by the celebrity, you end up buying the pills, which of course, is really not more than a placebo.

8. Kik users directed to undesirable sites

Kik, another popular instant messaging app, is a favorite site that is popularized through spambots on Tinder and Snapchat. The user is then linked to adult webcam sites. Should the user give out credit card details, they eventually get charged “premium” rates for accessing the sites.

9. Malicious Chrome extensions on Facebook

There are claims on Facebook about software that will clean up your computer. Unfortunately, these often lead to infections using your personal account details to attack friends.

Examples include variations of a promise to be able to change the color of your Facebook profile or see who visited it. Clicking on the link will install a malicious Chrome extension which has commands to use the infected profile to send messages to the user’s friends, encouraging them to download as well.

The downloaded script file can also command the profile to “like” pages, thereby giving the attackers the ability to monetize the scam by selling Facebook “likes” for other pages.

10. InstLike

This rides on people’s obsession to getting “likes” on their post. Preying on the popular Instagram, this scam involves a third party app called InstLike. Scammers generate money by generating automatic likes of users’ photos.

The problem with InstLike is that once it’s installed, users surrender their information and become part of a social botnet. They also violate Instagram’s Terms of Service, which prohibits monetizing the use of the app.

In the next issue, we will give the advice of top cyber security companies on how to prevent being used or abused by scammers that now abound on social media sites.

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