If you’re like many Americans, you spend time on social media almost every day. Posting, engaging, maybe just browsing. Unfortunately, any of these activities make you a target for scammers. And being a Veteran or family member makes you an even bigger target; it doesn’t matter which social media platforms you use.
So how can you protect yourself? Read on to find some helpful tips and warning signs.
Social media scams, fraud and phishing are common
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 25 percent of fraud victims in 2021 reported falling for scams or phishing that started on social media platforms. Phishing occurs when a scammer impersonates a loved one, friend or credible organization to trick you into providing sensitive or financial information.
Alarmingly, the FTC expects that social media phishing will increase. Because social media platforms make it easy to find people and groups, phishers use them to identify and target potential victims. For example, you could be targeted for sharing your military service or employment history on Facebook. By practicing several simple rules, you can protect yourself.
Never share sensitive or financial information in social media messaging or posts, including direct messages.
If you’re following a link or ad, check the site’s security. Look for “https://” at the start of the website address.
Enable multi-factor authentication on all your accounts to keep them safe from hacking. For example, when logging onto Facebook or other social media platforms, you can select a code to be sent to your email or phone number for additional security.
Limit the personally identifiable information (such as your date of birth, home address, social security number, etc.) on your account. Remember: the less information, the better.
Phishers especially love targeting Veterans for their government-provided aid and benefits. Sharing your military service or employment information online makes it easier for phishers to find you. Beware, phishers will attack in a variety of ways:
Fake advertising. Phishers will create fake charity ads during natural disasters to fraudulently collect Veteran information.
Phishers create fake accounts and personas to steal sensitive information through false romantic interest.
Hijacking social media accounts. Hackers can take control of loved ones’ social media accounts and send messages through the platform to phish your information.
If you think your information has been compromised, you can submit the incident to your local police department and file a report with the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. If financial information has been exposed, you should monitor your financial accounts for unauthorized charges and immediately report them to your financial institution.
Track the latest phishing attacks so you know what to expect; for example, monitor resources such as: