You may know email Phishing, the fraudulent practice of messages appearing to be from reputable companies. They induce individuals to click on links or respond in other ways, where victims may reveal personal and sensitive information.

Phishing is the number one method of cybercrime. It can result in various forms of damage, from ransomware to theft of personal details or data such as credit card information, or getting your username and password credentials that can authorize access to your online accounts.

You may be well aware of it coming by email, but other types of phishing have been growing rapidly. 

Move over, Email: Social Media Phishing is next.

In recent years, phishing over social media has skyrocketed by 500%. There has also been a 100% increase in fraudulent social media accounts.

Phishing over social media often tricks the victims because people tend to let their guard down when on social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. They’re socializing and not looking for phishing scams.

However, phishing scammers are out there looking for you and will reach out via friend requests and direct messages.

There are several ways you can secure your social media use to avoid these types of covert attacks.

1. Make Your Profile Private on Social Platforms

Phishing scammers love public profiles on social media because not only can they gather intel on you to strike up a conversation, but they can also clone your profile and put up a fake page for phishing your connections.

You can limit your risk by going into your profile and making it private to your connections only. This means that only someone that you’ve connected with can see your posts and images, not the general public.

For sites like LinkedIn where many people network for business, you might still want to keep your profile public, but you can follow the other tips below to reduce your risk.

2. Hide Your Contacts/Friends List

You can keep social phishing scammers from trying to use your social media profile to get to your connections by hiding your connections list. Platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook both give you this privacy option.

Just be aware that this does not keep scammers from seeing you as a friend or connection on someone else’s profile unless they too have hidden their connections list.

3. Be Wary of Links Sent via Direct Messages and in Posts

Links are the preferred way to deliver phishing attacks, especially over social media. Links in social posts are often shortened, making it difficult for someone to know where they are being directed until they get there. This makes it even more dangerous to click links you see on a social media platform.

A scammer might chat you up on LinkedIn to inquire about your business offerings and give you a link that they say is to their website. Unless you know the source to be legitimate, do not click links sent via direct message or in social media posts. They could be leading to a phishing site that does a drive-by download of malware onto your device.

Even if one of your connections shares a link, be sure to research where it is coming from. People often share posts in their own feeds because they like a meme or picture on the post, but they never take the time to check whether the source can be trusted.

4. Don’t Participate in Social Media Surveys or Quizzes

Stay away from quizzes on social media. They’re often designed as a ploy to gather data on you. Data that could be used for targeted phishing attacks or identity theft.

It’s best to avoid any types of surveys or quizzes on any social media platform because once your personal data is out there, there is no getting it back.

5. Avoid Purchasing Directly from Ads on Facebook or Instagram

Many companies advertise on social media legitimately, but unfortunately, many scammers use the platforms as well for credit card fraud and identity theft.

If you see something that catches your eye in a Facebook or Instagram ad, go to the advertiser’s website directly to check it out, do not click through the social ad.

6. Research Before You Accept a Friend Request or Business Endorsement

It can be exciting to get a connection request on a social media platform. It could mean a new business connection or connection with someone from your alma mater. But this is another way that phishing scammers will look to take advantage of you. They’ll try to connect to you which can be the first step before reaching out directly via a direct message.

Do not connect with requests without first checking out the person or business by using a search engine instead of clicking on any links potential contacts have provided in requests or links they included in their comments. If you see that their timeline only has pictures of themself and no posts, that’s a big red flag that you should decline the request.

Can Your Devices Handle a Phishing Link or File?

It’s important to safeguard your devices with things like DNS filtering, managed antivirus, email filtering, and more. This will help protect you if you happen to click on a phishing link.

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