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Be smart, not sorry

How to outwit social media scammers

Created date

December 20th, 2011

Over the last five years, anyone with a computer and an Internet connection has witnessed and probably become part of the social media explosion that has changed the way we interact with one another. Sending an evite to your party and friending an old acquaintance have become the postcards and handshakes of the 21st century. While sites like Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter offer great ways to network and stay in touch with those you know, it s also a way for scammers to prey on the trusting and complacent. That is, of course, unless you know how they play their games. A little bit of knowledge and vigilance can go a long way to ensure that you re not the next victim. Here are a few tips from the Better Business Bureau.

Don t talk to strangers

If you re among the world s 800 million active Facebook users, then you know all about friending. Unfortunately, not all friend requests are real. Some come from scammers fishing for personal data like phone numbers and email addresses. If you have no idea who the person is, they can t be much of a friend. Network with those you know.

Games and banner ads

While Facebook itself is a legitimate site, clicking on the flashing banner ads for games and surveys that lead to pages outside of Facebook can take you down the wrong path. Occasionally, these pages contain quizzes that require your cell phone number before you can see your results. Once scammers have it, you could find yourself with a subscription to an expensive text messaging service that you didn t even know existed. You can avoid this if you stay clear of these links.

Misleading tweets

If you get a message on Twitter saying that a certain website has compromising photos of you, think twice before clicking the link. You ll find no snapshots. The page does, however, contain a hefty dose of spyware and viruses for your computer. If you don t recognize the link, don t click it. Chances are your photos are safe at home.

Truly viral videos

A video goes viral on the Internet when its popularity spreads it like wild fire. But some of them are truly viral. You might receive a supposedly innocent message on Facebook that contains a video with an outrageous headline. Clicking on the link will sometimes prompt you to download a video player or upgrade your Flash player. What you re really downloading is a virus that will automatically send the same video to your friends, prompting them to download it just like you did. Word to the wise avoid downloading a file after clicking on a link. Social media can be fun and useful, so don t let the scammers scare you away. Your best defense is to know how they work. To stay up to date on the latest scams, you can visit the Better Business Bureau online at